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Somalia, 23 April 2017: In the midst of a drought – rain is not necessarily a solution

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Mbakaya
Women at Moqor Manyow camp for those displaced by drought in southern Somalia collect water. UNICEF is providing the internally displaced at camps like these with access to safe water through vouchers, trucking and the chlorination of water sources.

By Jayne Mbakaya

BAIDOA, south Somalia, 23 April 2017 – Baidoa was one of the worst-hit areas in the famines of 1992 and 2011 and the current drought led to some 70,000 people moving from rural areas to settlements around the town in March alone.

Around 70 new camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have sprung up – Moqor Manyow is one of them with a population of 800 households. I recently joined a visit to the camp by a group of Emergency Directors from various UN agencies including UNICEF along with some NGOs. They wanted to see the drought situation first hand to understand how they collectively can better support efforts to prevent the crisis turning into a famine.

One of the main problems with the huge influx of new IDPs is providing clean water. There is already a huge increase in life threatening acute watery diarrhoea/cholera caused by contaminated water with more than 5,700 cases in Baidoa town this year and 90 deaths. UNICEF has supported more than 50,000 new IDPs with services such as access to safe water through vouchers or trucking and chlorination of water sources, hygiene promotion, distribution of hygiene kits, and emergency construction of latrines. Working through a local NGO called GRRN, UNICEF has supported construction of 95 latrines to serve 12 new IDP settlements. UNICEF finalized plans to construct another 500 latrines for new IDP settlements in the next two weeks through the Ministry of Health and Human Services. Each latrine is estimated to serve 30 individuals.
 

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Mbakaya
UNICEF’s local partner DMO distributes hygiene kits which include a bucket, jerry cans, soap and aquatabs for making household water safe to those displaced by the drought on the outskirts of Baidoa town in southern Somalia.

 
When the delegation arrived, several IDP women, girls and a man were fetching water from a UNICEF supported water station. The local partner had registered IDPs who were given a voucher and every day each family is given 45 litres of safe water brought by a truck. A long line of women were waiting for their turn to receive a hygiene kit comprising a bucket, jerry cans, five bars of soap and aqua tablets for making the water safe in the home. The women listened keenly to the hygiene promoter as he explained how to use the aquatabs to make household water safe to drink.

All the new arrivals are registered and provided with water vouchers. The water trucks collect water from a borehole located six km outside of Baidoa town. Water in the trucks is chlorinated and delivered to 10,000 litre capacity water bladders set up at the IDP settlements, from where the IDP families collect water.

The drought is a result of two failed rain seasons. The rains are due to start in mid -April but if they come they are expected to bring their own problem including an increase in acute watery diarrhoea/cholera cases, new cases of malaria, and other water related diseases as well as respiratory infections, especially among children.

I wanted to know more about whether the residents would return with the onset of the rains. Many of the women I talked to said it all depends on the amount of rainfall. Most of the new arrivals are agro pastoralists and farmers keeping goats and sheep and growing sorghum or working as labourers on the land. The women explained it takes two to three months after planting crops before they can harvest. Only then they can find out how conditions are back home and decide whether to return.

 

 
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