Somalia: Coping with extreme water shortages

Water Shortages Somalia Action Against Hunger

Providing Lifelines to 10,000 People Affected by Drought in Bakool.
Photo: Action Against Hunger, Somalia.

Before drought uprooted Asha Ali’s family from their home, finding enough water for their daily needs was a major challenge that dominated her day and often pushed her to the limits of her physical strength. To get to the nearest water supply, Asha walked 31 miles round trip. Once she arrived, she often had to wait in long lines to get the water, or deal with water shortages that left her without enough for cooking and drinking for the day.

Until recently, Asha’s family were pastoralists who raised and herded livestock for survival. After an extreme prolonged drought in 2017, water sources have dried up, livestock are dying in huge numbers, and communities across Somalia are facing a massive hunger crisis. Without sustained levels of large-scale humanitarian assistance, Action Against Hunger has warned that the intensifying drought could deteriorate into famine in Somalia in 2018.

In the Bakool region of southern Somalia, where Asha lives, Action Against Hunger’s recent assessments indicate a severe nutrition emergency: 17.2 percent of displaced children are acutely malnourished. Action Against Hunger’s field teams have also documented extreme water shortages among communities in Bakool, with many people unable to access more than 7.5 liters of water per day, which is the minimum humanitarian standard for survival needs in emergencies.

Prolonged drought killed Asha’s livestock and forced her family to move to Darkenkus village in Bakool in search of water. She has been able to find work by running a small shop. Her family, and many others affected by the drought, receive daily supplies of safe water from Action Against Hunger. With support from the European Union, Action Against Hunger began providing deliveries of clean water by trucks to villages in Bakool in response to extreme water shortages and an outbreak of cholera in early 2017.

Water Shortages Somalia Action Against Hunger

Asha (left) waits for her water cans to be filled by Action Against Hunger’s water truck in Dankenkus village in Bakool.

“It was very scary,” says Asha. “People were dying every day because they could not find any water. When my neighbour died from cholera, I thought my children and I would be next.”

According to Ali Moalim, the village leader in Darkenkus, about 50 displaced families have recently arrived to the community, increasing the demand on already scarce water resources.  “As long as the truck brings us water, we will survive on that,” Ali says.

Cholera is a preventable bacterial disease that is usually spread through contaminated water, often in situations where people are forced to live in crowded conditions without adequate hygiene or sanitation. To help stop its spread, Action Against Hunger launched a cholera prevention program in the area and provided communities with hygiene education sessions. “I gained a lot from the hygiene and sanitation sessions,” says Asha. “The sessions helped people understand the importance of handwashing and properly disposing of trash, and also taught us about latrines and how to keep them clean.”

In 2017, Action Against Hunger distributed water to 1,634 households in the Bakool region of southern Somalia—benefitting nearly 10,000 people—thanks to support from our donors. We are also working in partnership with communities to help them recover from the drought by rehabilitating wells, providing health and nutrition services to the most vulnerable mothers and children, and enabling families to improve their access to food and income. Our programs benefitted 284,000 people across Somalia in 2017.

Water Shortages Somalia Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger’s water trucks provided 10,000 people with safe water in Bakool, Somalia in 2017.