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Arming drought-affected families in Somaliland against water borne diseases

By Marthe van de Wolf – As a public health promoter for Oxfam’s local partner Havoyoco, Hamda Mohamed spends most of her time in settlements for displaced families and host communities in the Sool region of Somaliland. Most people here in this region have a story of how they have been affected by the ongoing drought, some of them having lost 90% of their livestock – their main source of income.

A typical working week for Hamda starts on Saturday, when she and the other three members of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team plan for the upcoming week. “We spend a lot of the time in the communities and camps so we start by preparing our field trips.”

Early Sunday morning, Hamda and her colleagues set out on a three-hour journey to the rural Caramadow village, that has registered cases of acute watery diarrhea. The diseases – a step away from cholera – is transmitted through drinking dirty water. It has not rained for almost two years so clean safe water is hard to come by. People are now forced to rely on the unsafe water sources such as hand dug well that put them at risk of deadly water-borne diseases.

Hamda and her team are on a mission to create awareness on good hygiene through theater performances.

“We started in June, and scheduled performances in six villages. Every scene focuses on how to manage and prevent AWD and cholera. It has been a big success and the performances have attracted large crowds. It’s all done in a fun way so that the underlying message comes across more naturally. We plan to continue the performances in more villages and communities.”

In another village, Ulusan, Hamda and her team have planned to distribute hygiene kits to 126 families there. The kits are provided for by Oxfam and include things such as jerry cans and soap.

“There is no health post in this area so when people are sick they have nowhere to go,” Hamda says. “There is so much need but we have to select the most vulnerable with any assistance. Thankfully, with the help of Oxfam, we are able to quickly distribute the kits once we have assessed who is eligible.”

Helping people change their behaviors on hygiene practices can be difficult. Nonetheless, working with community health mobilizers to conduct regular door-to-door sensitization visits to at least 10 families each week, goes a long way in getting word round.

Since April 2017, Oxfam, through local partners, has provided clean water and cash assistance for food and other essentials, to over 85, 000 people affected by the drought in Somaliland. Consecutive droughts have led to a humanitarian crisis in Somalia, leaving 3.1 million people in need of urgent emergency aid. The UN estimates 800,000 people have been forced to leave their homes into urban areas and displacement camps in search of humanitarian aid for their survival.

Oxfam’s partner organizations receive technical and financial support and play a vital role in making sure that people in even the most remote areas get the basic needed assistance.



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