People are in dire need of food, clean drinking water and shelter
Over 100,000 people devastated by the recent cyclone in Somalia are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, aid agencies report. The tropical cyclone that hit the Puntland region of Somalia earlier this month resulted in the death of at least 80 people, mostly children and the elderly, and is estimated to have killed more than 100,000 livestock. Pastoralist communities appear the hardest hit.
Information from affected communities was initially limited due to the remoteness of the worst affected areas. Communication was halted from the lack of electricity to charge mobile phones, which was the only method of communication. Initial assessments indicate there is an urgent need to provide food, clean drinking water, shelter and medical supplies. Families have lost their homes and possessions as floods damaged entire villages, roads and fishing boats. Fears are also emerging of an outbreak of diarrhea and other waterborne diseases as many water sources were destroyed, while others are at risk of contamination from dead livestock.
Oxfam and local partner WASDA supported local farmers in Jilib with funding from European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO). Farmers received seeds and farming tools, and benefitted from rehabilitated river embankments adjacent to farming fields.
Agriculture plays a crucial role in life. It not only provides us with food, but also employment opportunities. It feeds us, as well as our economy and is fuelled by innovation and ingenuity. In 2011 and 2012 agricultural communities in southern Somalia – the country’s grain basket – were severely affected by famine in Somalia. Cereal crop production was the lowest it had been in 17 years, and cereal prices soared due to dwindling local stocks. In the Lower and Middle Juba regions strained social and economic activities, inadequate inputs for agriculture and a lack of support for sustained livelihoods.
Access to safe water is a problem in Lower and Middle Juba, with dependence on water pans, shallow wells and sparsely distributed boreholes. It’s estimated that less than 20 percent of the population have access to clean water and less than 40 percent have access to sanitation facilities, with recent floods contaminating water points.
In response to this, Oxfam partner WASDA constructed 400 latrines, rehabilitated 20 river embankments or dykes and 20 shallow wells to increase access to clean water. The dykes were repaired in April 2013, just before the start of the GU rains, using sand bags to fill in the weak points. A total of 1,175 people participated in rehabilitation of approximately 2 kilometres of the dykes through cash for work, each participant receiving $12 a day.
I travelled to Somaliland with a production team to shoot a documentary showcasing the achievements of Candlelight programmes in Somaliland. Candlelight for Health, Education and Environment was founded in 1995 to support marginalized people and communities in Somaliland. In partnership with Oxfam, Candlelight has worked to improve access to education, income and health services, and has been a champion in environmental conservation.
Somaliland is a very beautiful country with long winding roads that wrap around the hills, breathtaking landscapes and never ending shorelines that are a feast for the eyes. It was watermelon season so there were towers of watermelons piled by the roadside and street-side stalls, a guarantee relief from thirst.
The mountain of Ga’an Libah, which means ‘Bay of Lions’, is a highland area that was once known for its juniper forests, bountiful wildlife, and spectacular scenery. It is strategically located between three main urban centers: the capital Hargeisa, Berbera and Burao. This area thrived, until the outbreak of civil war in Somalia in 1988. As conflict engulfed the region, the traditional and governmental land management systems that had been in place for decades disintegrated.
Indiscriminate cutting of mountain trees resulted in deforestation. Grazing land was overused, and the delicate environment was left damaged. This once thriving ecosystem suffered from drastic environmental degradation. Recognizing the ecological and economic importance of the mountain, and the needs of the community at-risk, Oxfam and Candlelight responded.
Overlooking the Somaliland landscape years ago, one could see patches of green in a vast dry land, with hints of seasonal water courses, where rivers once were. Just like the vast land in need of rain, developmental needs here were overwhelming. The majority of the people here survived in difficult conditions, and everyday life was a challenge.
Aflax Women’s organisation where Oxfam in partnership with Candlelight supports a community managed micro-grants group in Togdheer region. These grants enhance the economic independence of women through the provision of small grants for establishing and strengthening existing micro-businesses.
The project is a powerful and cost-effective way to engage members of the community in creative community improvement efforts and generate tangible positive change.