Nishe’s story

Safe drinking water for displaced families

UNICEF Somalia
UNICEF Somalia/2018
01 November 2018

Baidoa, Bay Region - Since early morning, there hasn’t been a dull moment at the water point in Bulohawa camp for the internally displaced persons (IDP) in Baidoa, Bay Region. Among the colorfully dressed women, girls and children waiting around to get water, is Nishe Abdi Hassan and her two-year-old daughter, Sahra Madeer.

After standing patiently under the blazing sun for some time, it is finally their turn. Nishe puts her jerry can under the faucet, turns the knob, then sits down onto an empty jerry can and waits as the water streams out. Right next to her, Sahra puts out her hand and lays it firmly on top of the water pipe, like a good little helper who wants to make sure the important job of collecting water is done, and done properly.

Nishe, Sahra and their family have been living in the camp for the past year and a half. They sought refuge in Baidoa in 2017 when a severe drought nearly pushed Somalia into another famine. Thanks to the emergency response led by the Somali authorities and supported by the aid community, famine was averted. However, the lives of countless Somalis were affected one way or another, including displacement for 1.5 million people.

Many of the uprooted moved to urban centres in search of humanitarian assistance. Baidoa was one of such places that received an overwhelming number of people. More than half of the town’s population–310,000–is now IDPs, living across 371 camps where basic health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services are overstretched.

To make a living, Nishe washes clothes for other people and collects firewood to sell. “We need a lot of things, food, shelter, work. But thankfully, we have water,” says Nishe.

UNICEF Somalia/2018/Kun Li
While waiting to collect water, a woman looking at a flyer that contains hygiene messages distributed to her by a UNICEF local implementing partner. Hygiene education like this is frequently conducted as part of UNICEF's WASH intervention.

Working side-by-side with implementing partners on the ground, UNICEF provided safe drinking water to 1.8 million people in 2017, along with other critical interventions to meet the basic needs of Somali children and women affected by drought. This lifesaving work was made possible thanks to the remarkable funding UNICEF received, including funding from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

In 2018, generous support such as that from CERF - which combines contributions from donors around the world into a single fund - continues to make a difference in the lives of Somali children and women. Since the beginning of this year, UNICEF and partners have reached 1.1 million people with safe drinking water, 475,000 women and children with emergency health services, and 148,000 children with treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

However, the need is immense. Around 4.6 million people–nearly 40 per cent of the population–still require humanitarian assistance, including 2.5 million children. Displaced families like Nishe’s are among the most vulnerable.

Despite her struggles, Nishe is determined to stay in Baidoa and make the best of the situation. “We don’t have plans to go back. There is nothing left for us to go back to,” says the mother of six. Like so many mothers across Somalia, she struggles to make ends meet. But clean water is a start, as are the helping hands of even her smallest child.