The Islamist militia al-Shabab has prevented international aid from reaching the most needy and in some areas has prohibited people from fleeing. Still, tens of thousands of Somalis are on the move. Their crops have dried up. Their farm animals are dead. Many Somalis have given up hope of remaining in their homeland.
So they walk — a slow trudge, really — for days and days. Some have spent a month on the road. Along the way they rest under leafless trees.
The journey preys on the young and elderly. Some are carried with dignity by family and friends and carefully placed in desolate graves in white desert sands. Others are discarded on the sides of roads as vultures hover overhead.
Life is still precarious for the survivors who manage to cross the border into Kenya or Ethiopia. Refugee camps are swollen with the hungry and the sick. International aid agencies are having trouble raising funds to assist Somalis. In a world consumed by other natural disasters and war, donor fatigue has set in, especially in a place whose name has become a synonym for anarchy.
Whether in Somalia or in the refugee camps, a singular image is seared into the mind:
A mother caresses her malnourished baby. Skin stretched taut over bone. Lifeless eyes. The mother’s anguish unfurls her thoughts. Will my baby survive?