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Life-Saving Water

20. October 2009,


Somalia/Somaliland - In Somaliland’s drought-stricken Togdheer region, Medair is delivering emergency truckloads of water to dozens of remote communities to save the lives of the most vulnerable.

“We have lost many livestock due to this drought. It’s a lot of pain,” said Mohamed Abdi Farah, who lives in the small village of Atena and supports a large family of 18 children. “We have been preparing to move away, since we can no longer stay here and just wait for death.”

Across Somaliland, severe drought conditions have led to a mass exodus from rural areas, and the looming threat of famine and death. In May, the government declared a drought emergency, and appealed to Medair and other NGOs in “the most strongest terms” (sic) to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to those made vulnerable by the drought: 40 percent of the population.

“The situation we are facing is most frightening,” wrote Mohammed Mohamed Muse Awale, Commissioner of Somaliland’s National Disaster Management Committee.

Medair conducted an immediate assessment of the most critical villages, together with the Ministry of Water and Mineral Resources and a local partner. The team concluded that drinking water was urgently needed in rural communities which rely on berkads or water cisterns to collect and store rainfall.

“Unfortunately, many of these berkads are cracked and have fallen into such disrepair that what little rain does fall cannot be held within them,” said Daniel Ndege, Medair’s Water and Sanitation Project Manager. “Another source of water is urgently needed.”

Water Trucks en Route

And so, within 10 days of the government appeal, Medair began sending trucks filled with water to villages where the need was greatest. Tearfund New Zealand provided strong funding support to make this life-saving intervention possible—an intervention that is still underway today.

We discovered that the most vulnerable people (including elderly, children, women, and the disabled) have often been left behind in these parched villages. With so little rain, and no water supply, they are left alone to die. Finding and helping them is Medair’s top priority in rural Togdheer region.

“I am old and have no strength to move and look for water,” said 60-year-old Guled Mohamed Agararan. “I was waiting to die because no one was left in the village. They all had moved in search for water. But Medair came to my rescue. God protect Medair and give them more funds to help the needy.”

Medair also provides water for families who would otherwise join the exodus of people leaving their home villages for the long migration in search of water, like Mohamed Adbi Farah and his large family.

“We thank Medair and the donor who has given this money because we were preparing to move, since we could no longer stay here and wait for death,” said a grateful Mohamed Abdi Farah. “We were like a woman suffering in the pain of labour with no midwife to help, and Medair came just before the child died. Long live Medair and the donor!”

Emergency Efforts Continue

Since May, Medair has trucked in a total of 2.9 million litres of water and saved the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in Somaliland. Our efforts continue to this day, with water currently being trucked to 48 villages in southern Togdheer region.

“Once this emergency phase passes, Medair will continue with critical health, nutrition, and water and sanitation activities in the region,” said Henrieke Hommes, Country Director. “We are also seeking funding to rehabilitate the broken-down community berkads so that people will be able to collect and store more water when rain is scarce.”

“Medair has saved many lives since they started the water trucking in this region,” said Abdirisak Mohamed Ajep, Director of Water in Togdheer region. “We have informed the president of Somaliland what Medair has done, and he has thanked the donor who funded the process.

“In addition, my people in Togdheer have asked me to give Medair a certificate of appreciation to express gratitude for the live-saving water which has kept many people alive today.”

After an extensive assessment process in 2007, Medair launched a new integrated Health Services and Water and Sanitation programme in Somalia/Somaliland in March 2008 to respond to the high level of need of the vulnerable population. Our programmes focus on rural areas where conflict- or disaster-affected populations have not received sufficient humanitarian assistance, or where current humanitarian capacity is insufficient to address the most critical needs. Medair works through local partners to build the technical and management capacity of local NGOs, health workers, and national staff.

Medair brings life-saving relief and rehabilitation in disasters, conflict areas, and other crises by working alongside the most vulnerable. Its internationally recruited staff are motivated by their Christian faith to care for people in need, providing practical and compassionate support, regardless of race, religion, or politics. Founded in 1989, Medair has an unwavering commitment to bring hope to the world’s most vulnerable.

Hargeisa Flood control and management project

Water problems in Somaliland are acute and complex