The holy month of Ramadan coincides with the longest drought in Somalia’s history, forcing some Muslims to break their fast

This year’s holy month of Ramadan coincides with the longest drought in Somalia. As the sun sets and Muslims around the world gather to break their daily fasts with lavish dinners, Hadiiq Abdulle Mohamed and her family have only water and whatever food is on hand.

Mohamed is among more than a million Somalis who have fled their homes in search of help, while an estimated 43,000 people have died in the past year alone. She and her husband and six children are now seeking refuge in one of the growing refugee camps around the capital, Mogadishu.

Ramadan brought a spike in food prices for a country already struggling with inflation caused in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the withering of local crops from five consecutive failed rainy seasons. Millions of farm animals, which are central to feeding people, have died.


Now it is even more difficult for the displaced to get food. For Ramadan, Mohamed and her family rely on well-wishers to provide their only meal of the day. First they break their fast with water and pieces of dates, then spoonfuls of rice. Finally, they eat the donated meal of boiled rice with mixed meats, mashed bananas and a small plastic bag of juice, which Mohamed waits for hours under the scorching sun to get.

“I remember the Ramadan fast we had in the past when we enjoyed it and prospered,” she said. “We would milk our goats, cook ugali (maize porridge) and kale, and drink water from our catchment area. But this year we live in a camp, with no plastic to protect us from rain, no food, thirsty and experiencing drought. We have this small hot meal, but do you think it can feed a family of six children plus a mother and father? That’s not possible.” The family was once wealthy, owning farmland and goats in a village about 87 miles west of the capital. Now they are trying to make ends meet with what little money her husband earns by transporting goods in a wheelbarrow. But food prices have risen so much that his income is no longer enough to buy a 2.2-pound sack of rice.

Food is prepared for people at a camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia, on March 24, 2023. This year’s holy month of Ramadan coincides with the longest drought in Somalia. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Inflation in Somalia is also depressing the wealthier. The typical Ramadan fast-breaking meal includes samosas and other snacks; juice and tea and coffee; as a main course rice or spaghetti or flatbread with camel, goat, chicken or fish; and finally dessert.

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The Horn of Africa country imports most of its food, from wheat grown in Ukraine to bottles of Mountain Dew stocked in some shiny shops in Mogadishu. Meanwhile, prices for staples like rice and cooking oil continue to rise in parts of the country.

This month, the World Food Program monitor reported that supply chain resilience in Somalia is generally good, but the surge in demand after Ramadan would be “a disadvantage for vulnerable households dependent on local markets.”

“We are seeing a really rising price of food and other staples,” said Ahmed Khadar Abdi Jama, associate professor of economics at Somalia University. “Whenever there is an external factor that can reduce food supplies, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Somalis are more likely to experience low supplies.”

For example, a kilogram of camel meat that cost about $4 before the holy month now costs about $6. But that inflation will ease after the month is out, Khadar said.


Ramadan is a month of charity and forgiveness throughout the Muslim world. With the growing number of Somalis displaced by the drought, mosque imams in Mogadishu are struggling to encourage the city’s wealthy and others who can afford to sympathize with the poor and donate generously.

“Some people need food to be able to afford to break the fast,” said an imam, Sheikh Abdikarim Isse Ali. “Please help them.”

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