Water is life: helping people face unprecedented drought

“You realize the importance of water when it’s not easily accessible to you,” says Ayesha. In Somalia, four consecutive rainy seasons have failed, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years. OCHA.

Somalia | 2022 | CBPF

Sool, Somaliland and Nugaal, Somalia. Ayesha Suguli leads a family of 20 in Dhabansar. Throughout her life, travelling long distances to collect water has been normal.

But the ongoing drought has made this difficulty extreme. “You realize the importance of water when it’s not easily accessible to you,” says Ayesha. In Somalia, four consecutive rainy seasons have failed, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years.

Sahra Jamac, who lives in Nugaal region in a village of about 1,000 people, observed, “This drought is devastating and shocking compared to the previous droughts we lived through…this is the first time I have lost all my animals.”

About 7.8 million people are expected to be affected by the drought, which has already devastated the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable and marginalized people, including women, children, and minority clans. 805,000 people are newly displaced because of the crisis.

Ayesha’s livelihood situation is similar to Sahra’s. “Half (our livestock) have died because of the drought. When the shallow wells started drying up, we ended up paying for water trucking, which was expensive for us. Men in the family will take care of the livestock while women and children will take care of water for household use. We carry gallons of water on our backs every day and walk for kilometres, which causes us back pain too.”

“Walking for long distances wasn’t safe for us women,” Ayesha added.

Jamac lost his arm in fighting nearly two decades ago. His village has been facing drought for over four years. “We didn’t have access to safe water and…there were no [safe and clean] latrines.”

The Somalia Humanitarian Fund (SHF) supported ACTED, which is providing displaced people and host communities in Ayesha and Jamac’s area with WASH assistance like water distribution and the rehabilitation of critical boreholes. “Now with the borehole, we are getting water for household use,” says Jamac.

Meanwhile, Himilo Organization for Development, a local NGO, used SHF funding to provide vulnerable families like Sahra’s with cash transfers. Partners working in the area note that, while there is still more to be done by humanitarian organizations to avert the impact of the drought, cash transfer does play a critical role in reducing vulnerability.

“I was struggling to feed my children but now with a monthly stipend, I can afford to buy food for them and help them to go to school. It is not a lot, but we can get what we need at the time,” says Sahra. Himilo Organization is also trucking water, a vital lifeline for many families in the area.

A similar programme, implemented by Action Aid, distributed cash to Ruqia and her family. “Buying food was the main priority for me,” she explained. “I [had] almost forgotten what good food used to be.” Ruqia lives in a displacement camp, and works in a slaughterhouse – but it is not enough to feed her family.

More challenges lie ahead, and people will need more humanitarian assistance to ensure safety, survival and dignity as Somalia continues to live through this drought. In the displacement camp where Ruqia lives, Farxakule, many women lead households alone. “Look around the camp and see what kind of life we have,” says Ruqia.

Jamac wishes his children had more opportunities, “When I think of the future for my grandkids, I wish them a good life where they have access to education, the necessities of life and a good career. I don’t want the kids to think and worry about water in this age, I want them to think and carry books and pens rather than water buckets.”


‍More information on the Somalia Humanitarian Fund:
OCHA – POOLED FUNDS DATA HUB – By Country (unocha.org)