Drought in Somalia: No water, no work

March 22, 2016
Written by Craig Burnett
Photo by Simon Le Tocq

When this water tanker pulled into a village in Somalia, it didn’t just bring relief for thirsty mouths. It helped some of the world’s poorest people earn a living again.

Concern’s Andrea Solomon visited Somaliland region in north-western Somalia, in March. She met people facing a terrible problem: “It’s very dry. There’s nothing growing. Communities there rely on water to make a living.”

People earn money by growing crops or raising sheep, goats, and cows. What they don’t eat themselves is sold to pay for school books, health clinic bills, and other vital costs.

Now low rainfall has brought chaos to families already living in extreme poverty.

Seven failures and a nervous wait

Somaliland normally has two rainy seasons a year, with two dry seasons in between. When the water does come, lots of it races off the dry earth rather than soaking into the ground.

Since 2011, there has only been one proper rainy season, and that was in 2013 — which means seven have been frustrating failures. The next rainy season is due in April. Until then, people face a nervous wait.

“All the communities talk about people who have left looking for work, which puts huge pressure on them and strain on the families they leave behind.”

Concern has already helped people in Somaliland get water by drilling boreholes in places where it can be drawn from the ground and helping them to construct catchments to save the water that would otherwise run away.

Now we are trucking water from these boreholes to lined earth pits that, in better times, catch rainwater for remote communities. The truck we’ve pictured here, working in the Gabiley region, carried its load more than 15 miles.

Concern water tanker arrives at village in Somalia

Concern’s water tanker brings water from boreholes to lined pit. Photo: Simon Le Tocq

Drought causes families to separate in order to survive

Until the next rains come, people are missing meals or eating less in a bid to stretch what they have. Andrea says: “Families here are very poor and very vulnerable. They live in a remote, rural place, under-served by education and healthcare.”

When the rains fail, young men often head to towns and cities in search of jobs. But there aren’t many opportunities for them there, because they haven’t got the right skills.

We’re bringing long-term solutions too. Like new seed types, crops better at resisting drought, and new skills that will help people boost their incomes.

Many leave behind households where a single woman looks after children and older relatives. Andrea says: “All the communities talk about people who have left looking for work, which puts huge pressure on them and strain on the families they leave behind.”

Lined earth pit with water

Villagers gather around a catchment that is filled with water. Photo: Simon Le Tocq

Beyond water trucking

Our support for people hit by the drought goes beyond bringing them water. It includes quick cash grants that help them survive by buying essentials like sacks of food to see them through the worst times.

But we’re bringing long-term solutions too. Like new seed types, crops better at resisting drought, and new skills that will help people boost their incomes.

We are also helping individuals find more than one way of earning money, so that if a problem hits one source of income, they can turn to another. Self help groups are particularly successful for empowering people — especially women — to run small businesses together.

We don’t know what the next rainy season will bring to Somaliland. But we’re staying put. helping people face a terrible, life-changing crisis and helping put sustainable solutions in place to improve their lives.

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