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Sand is Overwhelming the Town of Hobyo in Central Somalia

Founded in the 13th century during the Ajuran empire, Hobyo became a hub for piracy, an activity that peaked in 2009-10. Since the decline in piracy, attention has shifted from criminal activity along the coast to the region’s environmental degradation. Despite contributing less than 0.08% of global emissions, Somalia is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. Droughts, strong winds and soil erosion are just some of the effects that have worsened over the past two decades as the climate crisis has intensified, causing extreme suffering, including near-famine conditions and mass displacement. On the coast people say they are more vulnerable than ever to sandstorms that have buried homes, shops, schools and hospitals. In Hobyo, home to about 11,000 people, a hospital funded by a local man, Sheikh Hassan Hussein, was buried in sand just a year after it was built in 2018. There are fears that the town’s main hospital, where sand is more than a metre high around some of the external walls, will also be buried if no action is taken soon.