As the global community marks World Water Day 2016 with the theme “Better Water, Better Jobs,” we are focusing on Somalia, a country that has been hit with reccuring spells of drought and famine. One of the worst crises was in 2011, when severe drought led to a famine that killed an estimated 260,000 people, half of them children under the age of five. Water is a precious resource for the Somali community, which largely depends on livestock and farming for their livelihoods.
These photos showcase activities that the Intertional Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) carries out across Somalia, from men drawing water from a well for their camels in Bakool region to a woman serving tea to patrons in Bitaale, Mudug region further north, an area that is currently experiencing drought.
Over half the Somali population depends on livestock; goats, sheep, camels and cattle as a source of income and sustenance. Camels are favoured as they are built to withstand long dry periods and are thus key in helping communities face drought crises. In 2015, the ICRC has dug boreholes and wells assisting more than 114,000 people.
The country experiences two rainy seasons: the Gu rains that fall between April and June and the Deyr rains later on in the year between October and December. The months in between the two wet seasons are hot and harsh on farmers who need to keep their lands watered. ICRC has been working to assist the farmers with seedlings and tractors as well as building rain water harvesting structures (berkads) that are vital to the communites during the dry seasons. More than 38,000 people in 2015 benefitted from distributions of tractors and other farm tools in Somalia, while the ICRC also completed 27 surface water and rain water harvesting projects across the country.
During armed conflict, damage to water infrastructure may occur while access to water supplies may become challenging. The ICRC tries to ensure victims and the displaced can access water by repairing water structures or building completely new water points to help displaced families. In 2015, ICRC improved access to safe drinking water for more than 240,000 people.
While access to water sources is important, equally key is that the water is fit for consumption. Safe drinking water is important to ensure waterborne diseases are kept at bay. Unfortunately, a cholera outbreak in Baidoa, Bay region in December 2015 claimed seven lives, while close to 300 cases were admitted at the Baidoa Regional Hospital. With the help of the ICRC together with the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) aquatabs were distributed to villages affected to purify their water sources.
The campaign was part of a detention program that ensures people deprived of freedom live in humane conditions and with dignity. These posters were used to raise awareness on simple steps of maintaining good hygiene. Close to 9,000 detainees were reached through this campaign in 2015.
The caption in the poster is in Somali. It reads: “Wash your hands with soap everytime and after visiting the toilet.”
ICRC interventions in Somalia include installation of taps in displacement camps, drilling boreholes, the construction of berkads for rain water harvesting and rehabilitation of water storage and distribution facilities to ensure this basic necessity is available for the affected population.
Tea is an indispensable social beverage in Somalia. Mostly prepared using camel milk, it’s hard to miss a hot cup in the mornings and evenings wherever you may be in Somalia. Towns are dotted with tea shops filled with patrons seated sipping away as they chat. Most of the tea shops are run by women who earn their income from this shops. Fadhuma is one such woman. The water she uses in her tea shop, located in Bitaale, Galkacyo South district in Somalia is fetched from a nearby borehole dug by ICRC in July 2015.