Home NEWS International News Climate change campaigns: optimistic Somali journalists on a mission

Climate change campaigns: optimistic Somali journalists on a mission

Photo courtesy of CNN
Photo courtesy of CNN

Somalia has over the decades been faced with civil war that has left thousands of people dead while millions of others have been displaced.

Journalist Kiin Hassan Fakat who works for Bilan Media is a victim of such displacement.

Fakat was brought up in Kenya’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab after her family fled Jubaland, her birthplace in Somalia due to civil war in the 1990s.

At the end of 2020, she returned to Jubaland only to realize that beyond civil war, there was another catastrophe that was causing human displacement to unprecedented levels: climate disasters.

Just like many African nations, Somalia has borne the brunt of floods, drought and famine that usually cause displacement of millions of people whenever such natural phenomenon strikes.

This year alone, over 100 people were reported dead while over 1 million others were rendered homeless after heavy downpour linked to El Nino weather phenomenon pounded Mogadishu.

However, amid the threats posed by climate change, the phenomenon has usually been relegated to the periphery with media space dominated by conflicts and incessant political crises that are synonymous with Somalia.

As a result, many people in the country have little or no understanding of climate change, notwithstanding its devastating impact upon their lives.

Determined and dedicated to change the narrative, a team of journalists drawn from Bilan Media, have been traversing parts of Somalia – from Baidoa, Afgoye to Kisimayu among other areas – highlighting the effects of climate change.

Fakat, who works with Bilan Media, an outlet dedicated to the course of championing climate matters in the East African nation, says what they saw firsthand during their visit was heartbreaking.

“It was so painful to witness the situation,” Fakat said as she recounted the predicament of a woman who was forced to leave the flooded Baidoa city in search of clean water several kilometers away.

She spoke during a panel discussion on Understanding and Covering Climate Change Issues that was held during the 6th Kenya Editors Annual Convention held in Mombasa between November 30th – December 1st, 2023.

Faiza Mohamed Ali is a young climate activist based in Mogadishu, Somalia. She says they are on a mission to create climate change awareness and make a difference in the community.

“When it comes to solutions, the youths of Somalia, we do awareness of the community and also we do engagement with the people that have been evicted by floods,” she contends.

She also underscores the need to ensure journalists get a deeper understanding of climate issues that are scientific in nature and are usually characterized with a lot of disinformation.

“The reporters have to understand climate change, the impact. When they understand that, the impact of climate change, they can report. But if they don’t understand anything about climate change, it is too hard to report that,” adds Ali who together with her colleagues have embarked on a mission to train journalists on climate matters.

According to Mary Harper, an Independent Journalist, climate related issues have often not been given the prominence they deserve because they are regarded as boring or the science behind them is rarely understood.

“When it comes to climate change, I think one of the challenges is how do you make those stories interesting, and also there is a lot of study that show that people, because they are frightened about climate change, there is news avoidance. They don’t want to look at those stories,” adds Harper, an ex-BBC employee.

However, she notes that though they face incredible challenges in the course of their work, efforts being made by journalists like Kiin Hassan Fakat and her colleagues at Bilan Media to create awareness in the community, together with activists like Faiza Mohamed Ali are beginning to bear fruit.

“I must say because I am often in the Somali territory, this year for the first time, I have noticed people using in English the term climate change and they never used to talk about climate change before. Journalists must be making a difference there,” says Harper.

She is of the view that there is need to form climate desks in media houses that should be charged with the solemn responsibility of ensuring the echoes of climate issues reverberate far and wide.

Fakat, who herself was placed in one of Kenya’s mainstream media to cover climate issues, concurs.

“It could be good to have a special desk for climate change so that it contributes in creating more awareness about climate change and its impact,” she says.

Hopefully, with the effects of climate change being evident in Africa as is the world, the efforts being spearheaded by the likes of Fakat and Ali will help in the prioritization of Africa’s adapation needs in the global climate discourse during COP29 expected to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan next year.

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