Ismael Haji Yussuf and his family have been sleeping rough in a small flimsy hut after their home was burnt down in a fire that broke out on 18 January, when everyone in the family was away from home.
They are among 350 families in Gobyaal village in Qallafe district, Ethiopia’s Somali Region, whose houses were destroyed in the fire whose cause has not been established yet, according to the authorities.
Ismael lost his two-roomed house and everything inside, including bedding and the food he reserved from the last harvest for the family to survive on in the current drought season. His family of 11 now depends on dry food donated by well-wishers.
“I didn’t salvage anything at all from the house. The fire gutted sorghum worth 50,000 Ethiopian birr ($769). It also burnt $5,000 in cash that I was keeping home. The money was to pay the family bills and fuel for the farm generator. Three of my cows were also burnt alive,” he recounted.
Ismael told Radio Ergo that he does not have money to rebuild his house. They live on the produce of his one-and-a-half-hectare farm and 20 cows, but he lost 12 cows to the drought in November.
“We were already struggling with the drought and then this fire crippled us totally. We worked for ourselves, we don’t have anyone who supported us with the bills,” he said.
Another resident of the village, Omar Mohamoud Dahir, is sheltering with his eight children under a tree near the remnants of their house. His family has been cooking food given out by a volunteer committee that collected the food from families not affected by the fire. He has just five kilograms left of the food he received.
“We don’t eat three meals a day now. We eat breakfast in the morning and maybe dinner if we get something to cook. We are living a difficult life,” he said. He used to support the family from his small shop in his compound, but the shop was burnt as well.
“Everything that was in the house and shop was burnt. We only got the people out and nothing else. There is no work now and people are struggling here. We wait for God’s mercy,” he said.
Omar looked for farming jobs in the village, but most farmers are affected by the drought and have no work.
A team from UN agencies in the region, led by officials from Somali Region’s disaster management office, visited Gobyaal village. The office’s coordinator in Shabelle region, Abdi Ahmed Elmi, told Radio Ergo that they came to assess the damage. He noted that there were no immediate plans to rebuild homes for the families affected.
The coordinator said that whilst nobody died or was injured, the fire destroyed 7,000 kgs of harvested maize, 2,350 kgs of sugar, three farm generators, houses, shops and three donkey carts. There are 790 families in the village whose income depended on farming and livestock.