Mogadishu shops closed as soaring food prices add to desperation in Somalia | Global Development

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FArdowsa Nur Arab, a widow with four children, does not know how to support her family. Soaring prices are forcing her to close the small restaurant she’s been running for five years in Mogadishu’s bustling Zoobe Junction district.

“I am losing my only source of income,” she says. “People can’t afford the meals I cook anymore, so they stopped coming to my restaurant.”

The worst drought in 40 years, combined with the war in Ukraine, has led to a dramatic increase in food prices. The price per kilo of rice has fallen from US$0.75 (60 pence) to $2. Cooking oil also more than doubled, with three liters going from $4.50 to $9.50.

More than 90% of Somali wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine. With supply routes blocked and local crops wiped out by successive droughts, affordable food and other essentials are running out.

Baarliin Mahmud, who is closing her shop in Mogadishu because she cannot afford to buy stocks as prices soar. Photography: Kiin Hassan Fakat/Bilan

Even those with a good income are struggling. Mohamed Hussein Ali, a university professor, was once able to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his family of seven. Now his monthly salary of $800 barely covers his basic expenses.

“Life is hard,” he says. “Previously, $130 was enough for a month’s worth of food and milk for the children. Now even $250 is not enough. A 13 kg gas bottle went from $21 to $46.

Ali is no longer able to put part of his salary aside to save money. “Things are going to get worse unless our salaries are increased to keep pace with inflation.”

The situation is particularly dire for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in makeshift camps in and around the capital. Every day, more and more families arrive from drought-stricken areas, putting additional pressure on Mogadishu, which lacks resources and is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

Drought forced Rukiyo Sheikh Nur to flee to Mogadishu two weeks ago from his home in Kuntuwarey district in southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. She is divorced and pregnant with her sixth child. “There is no food or water in my home area,” she says. “Our farms are not producing anything because the rains have failed for three consecutive seasons.”

Nur goes out every day in search of work, cleans houses and washes clothes. “Sometimes I earn around $4 a day, but my family can’t survive on that. Other days, I come back with nothing.

The United Nations says more than seven million people in Somalia are affected by the drought, with around 800,000 people forced from their homes as a result. They joined the three million people already internally displaced by conflict, drought and flooding, most of whom end up in camps in towns and villages.

The UN says some areas are close to famine. Humanitarian appeals have fallen on deaf ears, with just 4.4% of the requested funds raised in April.

Somali aid groups are doing what they can. Duniyo Mohamed Ali, program officer with the women’s development organization IIDA, says a major problem is a lack of foresight. “Two months after the rains stopped, the previous government still had no plans to help people,” she says.

“We plan to engage with the new administration, in particular the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, and encourage them to establish a national contingency plan.”

One of the first acts of the new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was to appoint a special envoy against the drought, Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, who ran against him in the presidential race last month.

“The country has been busy with elections,” says Warsame. “Now the president’s number one priority is drought. My job is to coordinate aid across the country, including urban areas. I don’t know if a plan has been put in place to try to control prices high on food and fuel I expect there will be once the new government is in place.

For Baarliin Mahmud, a trader, help will come too late. She has decided to close her shop because she cannot afford the stock. “My clients are abandoning me. I am the sole breadwinner for my family, including my grandsons who live with me. I don’t know how I will support them.

Fathi Mohamed Ahmed is the deputy editor of Bilan, Somalia’s first all-female media outlet.

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