Somalia: ICRC Bulletin No. 05/2009 - Hardship compounded by heavy rain

News and Press Release
Originally published
Heavy rains are severely affecting thousands of families displaced by the hostilities in Mogadishu who sought refuge between the capital and Afgoye. Many families moved to higher ground but are still exposed to the rain. The ICRC has distributed 7,000 tarpaulins as emergency shelter.

The forecast, based in part on the effects of the El Niño weather system, is for rains in Somalia and the Ethiopian highlands to continue and even intensify in the coming days and weeks. As a consequence, there is a very high risk of breaches occurring in river banks that have gone without maintenance for years.

In September the ICRC pre-positioned 230,000 sandbags at various sites along the Shabelle and Juba rivers of central Somalia to enable local communities to shore up the river banks and thus lower the risk of flooding of villages and farms. In October an additional 30,000 bags were supplied in Gedo and 20,000 in Middle Shabelle.

In Middle and Lower Juba, Middle Shabelle and Bay it gave 45,000 destitute people who had to flee the hostilities in Mogadishu shelter material, blankets, cloth, kitchen utensils and jerrycans.

After several consecutive crop failures caused by drought, many destitute farmers no longer have enough seed to continue their agricultural activities. The ICRC therefore distributed 300 metric tonnes of staple seeds (maize, sorghum and cowpea) together with a one-month food ration to 120,000 farmers in various areas of southern Somalia.

"The people receiving the seed should be able to produce enough food to feed their families from January until the next harvest in June," said Ottavio Sardu, an ICRC agronomist working for the Somalia delegation. "The food ration is included in order to make sure that they have enough to eat during the cropping season."

The ICRC also distributed a two-month dry food ration to 45,000 people in Sool severely affected by the drought and in dire need of food because they had lost their livestock and all other means of income.

ICRC support to health facilities

In response to ongoing armed conflict, the ICRC provided dressing materials, drugs and other medical supplies to clinics in Hiraan, Mudug and Middle Shabelle regions and to hospitals in North Galkayo, Dobley and Kismayo.

Following heavy clashes in Kismayo in October, a Somali Red Crescent Society surgical team from Mogadishu's Keysaney Hospital was sent to the city for eight days and treated 138 war-wounded patients before returning to the capital.

The ICRC continues to provide support for the two surgical referral hospitals in Mogadishu: Keysaney Hospital, which is managed by the Somali Red Crescent, and the community-based Medina Hospital. In October, the two hospitals admitted 550 people for surgical treatment, including 340 war-wounded patients. The ICRC provides these facilities with surgical and other medical supplies, salaries for staff, maintenance and infrastructure support on a monthly basis and with training for their medical and technical staff. Moreover, the ICRC supports 34 Somali Red Crescent clinics in central and southern Somalia, including six temporary clinics for displaced families on the outskirts of Mogadishu. In addition, the Somali Red Crescent opens two health posts in camps for displaced people (IDPs) in North Mogadishu.

The ICRC continues to work closely with the Somali Red Crescent, which is a key provider of emergency aid for victims of armed conflict and natural disasters in the country.

Improving water resources

Because the rains generated by the El Niño weather system have reached most of Somalia, the massive ICRC water-trucking programme was brought to an end earlier than expected. Nevertheless, in October more than 18 million litres of clean water were delivered each week to an estimated 600,000 people in 830 villages in Bakool, Bay, Galgadud, Gedo, Lower and Middle Juba, Mudug, and Middle Shabelle for up to five weeks, depending on the drought situation in the areas concerned.

Just in time, prior to the rainfalls, the ICRC finished building a round, stone-made berkhad (reservoir) in Nugal with a capacity of 615,000 litres, which will supply water for 100 nomadic families and their livestock throughout the dry season. The aim was to introduce a new and longer-lasting way of building berkhads, which are traditionally square-shaped and lined with cement.

"The ICRC has been upgrading berkhads for many years. Usually the aim is to make pastoralists better able to make it through the dry season," said Alexandre Farine, the ICRC water and habitat coordinator for Somalia. "Strategically located berkhads enable pastoralists to gain access to alternative dry-season pastures."

Building a reservoir in a round shape increases its storage capacity and improves its structural stability. "In connection with this project the ICRC provided training for 12 tradesmen from various parts of Somalia, who will spread technical knowledge of this water-catchment method," said Mr Farine. "Similar projects will be launched in the coming months."

In eight villages in Gedo and Galgadud, rainwater catchment systems were renovated through cash-for-work schemes providing temporary work for 670 unemployed people. As a result, as much as 14 million litres of water was made more easily available to the communities.

In addition, the ICRC completed the renovation of three rainwater catchments in the Bu'ale and Sakow districts of Middle Juba for more than 16,000 persons. The facilities, which have a storage capacity of 13 million litres of water, are now operational and, thanks to the current rains, in the process of being replenished.

For further information, please contact:

Pedram Yazdi, ICRC Somalia, tel: +254 20 272 3963 or +254 722 518 142

Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Nairobi, tel: +254 20 272 3963 or + 254 722 512 728

Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17

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