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Somalia, 22 March 2017: A struggle for water in drought-stricken Somaliland

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Holt
Noor Mohammed, who fought in the war of independence and is 56 years old, outside his temporary shelter after moving 35 days ago because of drought near the town of Ainabo, Somaliland.

By Susannah Price, UNICEF Somalia Communication Chief

Driving through Somaliland, the dusty scrub land, low acacia trees and finger-like termite mounds seem to stretch on endlessly. Occasionally there are small herds of goats or sheep, sometimes a carcass – but no wildlife and the driver tells me he misses listening to the birds.

Somaliland, like the rest of Somalia, has been suffering from a blistering drought. And we are travelling through the centre of Somaliland, on the road from Burao to Ainabo, to see how people are surviving. At the side of the tarmac road – on the right we see a neat group of round tents – looking a little like haystacks covered with bits of orange plastic sheeting and material. It is hard to know how long the shelters have been there as everything is quickly covered in dust.

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Holt
Shamsa Ise, 40 years old, stands outside of her make shift home near the town of Ainabo, Somaliland. Shamsa has seven children who have gone to look for food; their only water source is salty and their remaining few goats cannot be sold because there is no market for them.

It turns out this community has recently fled from their homes because of the drought. Shamsa Isaac clutches her mobile phone as she explains that, as their donkey had died with the other animals, they couldn’t even bring their bedding or jerry cans. She said they were living on rice and a local cereal, sorgum donated by local people and her seven children were out in the scrubland looking for firewood.

“We decided to stay here because there is water,” she said gesturing at a large rusty tank mounted on bricks a few minutes’ walk away. “But the water is salty.”

Nuur Mohamed who was says he is 56 but looks much older, says he has never seen such a bad drought. His camels, sheep and goats have all died so he brought his wife and six children to be near the water tank. By day he walks to the town five kilometres away to beg for food and during the dark they try to kill small animals such as the dwarf antelopes known as dikdik while they sleep.

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Holt
A woman holds up the food that she has left to feed her eight children at her makeshift home, near the town of Ainabo, Somaliland. Most families have lost most or all of their livestock and have next to nothing to survive on.

A few minutes walk through the dust, avoiding the sharp thorns we come to the large rusty tank which belongs to the owner of a nearby plot of land. It looks like an oasis with tamarind, guava and papaya trees and tomato plants and shows that, despite appearances, the soil is fertile. The rusty tank, which can only hold half its capacity of 1000 litres due to holes and leaks, also supports families who settled in this area many years ago after a previous drought.

“Everyone wants the water,” says Bare Mohamed, who works on the fertile plot. “I have to regulate it which causes conflict between farming for the owner and the local needs.” He shakes his head sadly at the few small tomatoes. “The water is insufficient for farming but these people are displaced as we once were so we have to help.”

As the drought continues, conflict over water sources will increase as will the use of contaminated water leading to disease outbreaks. UNICEF is providing clean water through water trucking along with hygiene promotion and distribution of aqua tabs so households can practice safe water treatment in their homes.

© UNICEF Somalia/2017/Holt
Women carry firewood towards their temporary homes where they are living after being forced to leave their homes because of drought near the town of Ainabo, Somaliland.

Since December UNICEF, through its partners, has been delivering emergency life-saving Water for about 42,000 people through vouchers (with WFP providing food) and hygiene kits and is scaling up to deliver to 210,000 people. Fourteen boreholes have been rehabilitated in the past year and 15 more are being done.



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