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IRC provides lifesaving water as drought grips Somalia and Ethiopia

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As a protracted drought continues to grip many parts of the Horn of Africa, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing lifesaving water to thousands of people in Somalia and Ethiopia.

“The drought is worsening in many parts of Somalia,” said Abukar Ga’al, the IRC’s deputy country director for Somalia, “The situation is critical. People in the central and coastal regions especially are facing life-threatening shortages of water.”

Many pastoral farmers in these regions have lost their livestock, the main source of their livelihoods, and have had to move closer to urban areas. Some families have been forced to sell off their assets — including any healthy animals they have left — to survive.

The IRC is currently trucking water to 34 villages in coastal Mudug Region that will provide, over the next 45 days, a daily water supply to some 40,000 people.

Abdikaram Ahmed Farah, a herder who has two wives and 10 children, has been severely affected by the drought. “I had two camels, five donkeys, three hundreds goats and one hundred sheep,” he said. “Now I have thirty goats and ten sheep.” Ahmed Farah said that he had never before experienced a drought that dried up both water and pasture land, as is now the case. “If this drought persists, and we receive no assistance, we will lose our remaining animals and eventually our lives,” he said.

The IRC is working closely with affected communities both to ensure that local needs are met and that the drought response is cost effective. In Somalia’s Mudug region, the IRC is supporting the construction and restoration of boreholes and wells. It is also working to promote hygiene and to prevent the outbreak of diseases such as acute watery diarrhea.

If the April rains are indeed below average — or if they fail to come at all — then the people of central Somalia will be in a desperate situation and will need outside support for months to come, said Abukar Ga’al, the IRC deputy country director.

“Emergency intervention is vital right now. But the issue for Somalia in particular is that it is vulnerable to drought and this vulnerability is likely to continue and get worse,” Ga’al said. “What’s needed is funding and support for a long-term intervention and for long-term programs.”