Starvation Stalks the Horn of Africa

Images from the drought that's pushing Somalia back to the brink of famine.

Photographs by Dominic Nahr/Contact Press Images

Top photo: A dead camel lies in the barren landscape near the town of Uskuru in Puntland, a region that has been severely affected by the drought.

April 6, 2017

Six years after drought and civil war conspired to kill more than a quarter-million Somalis, this troubled nation in the Horn of Africa is once again on the brink of famine. The rains have failed for two consecutive seasons, wiping out farmers and herders alike. Now, more than 6 million people — roughly half the population of Somalia — are in need of emergency humanitarian aid. In one 48-hour period last month, 110 people starved to death or died of drought-induced diarrhea, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency. Puntland, a semi-autonomous region in northeastern Somalia, where as much as half the population depends on livestock for survival, has been one of the areas hardest hit. Herds of camels and goats have been decimated, and pastoralists have been forced to travel hundreds of miles in search of water.

Around the globe, 20 million people are at risk of famine as the world confronts the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II, according to the United Nations. Authorities recently declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, and Yemen, Nigeria, and Somalia could be headed for the same fate. In February, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called on donors to put up $4.4 billion “to avert a catastrophe.” So far, only a fraction of that figure has been raised.

Top photo: A dead camel lies in the barren landscape near the town of Uskuru in Puntland, a region that has been severely affected by the drought.

Fadumo Abdikadir, 25, holds her malnourished 10-month-old baby at the Garowe General Hospital in Puntland's administrative capital. She and her family fled the parched Shimirale area of Puntland because of the drought.

A dust storm blows through the Shabelle displacement camp in Garowe, Puntland’s administrative capital, on Feb. 26. Families affected by the drought have congregated in similar camps throughout the country in hopes of receiving humanitarian aid.


A doctor examines a young girl inside a makeshift shelter at a displacement camp in Karin Sarmayo, Puntland, as part of a mobile clinic serving malnourished Somalis.

Somali men displaced by the drought observe Friday prayers in a camp in Karin Sarmayo, Puntland.

A dry riverbed fans out beneath the highway that connects the cities of Gardo and Garowe in Puntland.

A Somali man fetches water for his camels from a parched riverbed in Dhudo, one of the only remaining sources of water in the region.

Goat carcasses litter the ground near Uskuru, an area of Puntland that has been severely affected by drought.

Goats drink water in a mostly dried-up river in Dhudo, one of the only sources of water left in the region.

Two women walk toward the desert, away from a shelter and empty water bladder at a displacement camp in Karin Sarmayo.

Doctors examine Habiba Azil, who is 9 months old and malnourished, at the Garowe General Hospital in Puntland’s administrative capital.

A nurse tends to a malnourished child at the Garowe General Hospital.

Men fill a water truck that will supply towns and displacement camps near Dhudo, Puntland.

The sun sets over the graves of at least 20 Somalis who died recently from a water-born disease that spread rapidly in the Shabelle displacement camp in Garowe.

A man walks through a parched riverbed in the center of Garowe on Feb. 27.