As I am Save the Children’s Area Manager in Puntland, as soon as I heard that the drought situation was being announced as the most severe Category 1, I knew it was all systems go put in. While we already had several interventions underway, the CAT 1 announcement called for a massive scale-up of our health & nutrition, water/sanitation/hygiene (WASH), food security & livelihoods, non-food relief items, child protection and education responses. And the response now had to be even more quick and fast, with due regard to quality of course. From my experience, I knew the task before me was huge with over 6 million people in Somalia already affected and the numbers rising every day.
Since January 2017, I have made many visits to communities to assess the effects and responses required. Many stories, faces and memories of men, women, boys and girls have been etched in my heart. For example the story of Hali. As she narrated her heart-breaking story, she could not face me or look at me directly in the face. Her mind was distant. Her worries immense. Her’s was one of the heart-breaking realities of the effects of the drought on the people of Somalia. Hali is a mother of 9 children, and a household head who migrated from Somali region of Ethiopia and arrived in a camp near Galdogob town of Mudug -- where many drought-displaced families have come to.
Hali had lost two of her children (a 7-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy) as a result of the acute watery diarrhoea breakout in the region. She completely lost over 500 shoats (sheep and goats) and had no livestock left. She faced many difficulties in crossing the border -- due to the movement restrictions and as she had to flee from even far-worsening conditions of the drought and particularly the disease outbreak --while trying to save the lives of her remaining kids. Hali finally came to a new place whereby the severity and the manifestation of drought was not that much different from where she had moved away from -- except that there was the availability of basic health care services provided by Save the Children-supported mobile clinics. She was homeless, had no food or livestock left, and was the only source of the household income. Her children were malnourished and traumatised by the situation. I really felt devastated and such emotions will remain attached to me. To the pastoralist communities, that I and the majority of the people in Somalia belong, this is a devastating drought.
The same is true for other desperate households across the region. Many people in search of pasture and livelihoods have found themselves over three hundred kilometres away from their homes with no fuel nor means of transport, their livestock dying by the day, families members split, deep in debt with no one else to borrow from since everyone is affected or they are in a new area where they are not known well and can no longer access further debt or even temporary employment.
This is one of the worst droughts to be experienced in Somalia in terms of the scale, the number of the people affected and the prolonged subsequent dry seasons. I knew and I had an inner feeling that with such negative effects to the people, losses to livelihoods and suffering the communities we work with and by extent, the government, would come calling. Showing its alertness, Save the Children Somalia office has made the decision of scaling up the response earlier in February to try and save as many lives as possible – before the situation completely goes out of control.
I could not never imagine that our organization would reach 1 Million people within three months’ time through provision of various life-saving intervention including health, nutrition, provision of water, cash relief, and child protection services. The desire to help and the determination shown by our teams at different levels was incredibly high and the enthusiasm and perseverance of our mostly-national team has made this achievement possible. Now we have to reach even more people, quickly.
I prepared myself to do everything within the reach of Save the Children. My staff were ready and our response support systems were put in place quickly. The effects of the drought were affecting me directly. These were my people and they looked up to me for assistance. I knew the people affected by name and where they came from. I knew I had an obligation. All staff were equally affected and up to the task. They also decided to contribute 10% of individual basic salary to this cause.
It is with great sadness, that we could not save the lives of all. In some cases we lost children under five to AWD. However, we did all we could to save their lives. To us in Somalia every life matters.
Today, as a Somali, resident of Somalia and Save the Children’ Area Representative in Puntland, I find it incredible that through various funding and support such as DFID, ECHO, FFP, DEC, UNOCHA, DANDA, SIDA and many others, Save the Children has and continues to immensely contribute to saving lives, alleviating suffering and improving the wellbeing of over 1 million drought-affected children, including those under-5 and their families with lifesaving support. The enhanced mobile health clinics and services have been most helpful to those who cannot reach health facilities.
These are men, women, boys and girls – including children under five -- whose lives are being transformed. Without support from Save the Children, today, we would have been talking of a different story. Without Save the Children supported interventions such as unconditional cash transfers to vulnerable households; Improved shelter; water trucking to the families, schools and communities; improved access to health and nutrition services; access to child protection services and education to communities affected and those displaced, the situation of 1 million people would have been much worse than it is today. As the dark clouds gather, the rains may be on the way, but the needs of those affected are far from over. The path to recovery will be long. Animals will continue dying and AWD is likely to be on the rise in the coming months, and we are also looking out for any other disease outbreaks that may result from the rain.
Thanks to all our supporters and those who contributed to this ongoing worthy cause. We look forward to your continuous support.
Photo credit: Thomas Jepson-Lay/Save the Children (lead image) and Mustafa Saeed/Save the Children (image within the story)