Update No. 2 on ICRC activities in Somalia

Following a difficult four months where floods threatened to further destabilize the lives and livelihoods of an already vulnerable population, weather patterns in southern Somalia are slowly returning to normal. The floods have undeniably left considerable problems in their wake; material damage to the country's infrastructure and its impact on the economy is still difficult to quantify and much of the population, particularly in the south, is exposed to contaminated water and disease. Nevertheless, and in spite of a serious renewal of clashes in different regions, a reprieve in the weather has enabled the ICRC to complete its emergency assistance programmes. The return of more settled weather has contributed considerably to the programmes' success. The ICRC will thus be able to focus on the additional major activities planned for 1998 (as identified in the Emergency Appeals (pp 55-56)); rehabilitation is included amongst the objectives.
The ICRC has taken a lead role in the flood-relief operation because of the particular security context in Somalia. All operations have, however, been carried out in close consultation with both the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the Federation) and the Somali Red Crescent (SRCS).


Geophysical conditions have improved considerably over the last month in many parts of flood-affected Somalia; only certain parts of Lower Juba remain under water. Communities are now repairing damage to houses, public buildings and roads. The reprieve in the weather has also allowed the ICRC to finalize its flood emergency food and non-food distributions during the month of February. Despite widespread reports of a bleak outlook for food security (especially in Bay and Bakool), hopes remain high for the crops planted during the receding floods and harvests should permit the majority of people throughout the regions targeted by ICRC some degree of self-sufficiency.The ultimate success of the crops though lies in the amount of rain brought by the Gu season; too much could again provoke large-scale flooding.

Medical needs in the country remain high but the ICRC has been able to shift from a curative to preventive approach in its medical programmes. Similarly, water and sanitation teams have moved on from emergency water purification towards well cleaning and rehabilitation. Both of these elements are essential in the battle against the spread of epidemics -- particularly cholera. The ICRC has been working closely with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the Federation) in this field.


All food and non-food distributions to Gedo, Bay, Bakool, Lower Juba, Hiran, Middle and Lower Shabelle have been completed. Since 1 December, the ICRC has delivered over 250 mt biscuits, 54,155 blankets and 27,750 tarpaulins to over 200,000 beneficiaries. The seed and food distribution for flood recession planting was carried out according to plan and initial feedback and field surveys are positive. Over 600 mt seeds for staple crops, 2,255 kg vegetable seeds and 2,325 mt food were distributed to 51,700 families (some 260,000 people) in southern Somalia. In spite of some damage caused by insects, the harvest prospects are good; the main risk is that the Gu rains could adversely affect the crops in their final stage. Nevertheless, hopes are high that food is forthcoming from this harvest in the rain-fed areas and along the rivers.

Further to ICRC surveys in Tieglo, Dinsor and Bur Hakaba, initial fears for Bay and Bakool have been slightly allayed. However, security constraints have so far barred access to central Bay and fears are that pockets of people might be suffering because of food insecurity and limited movement. Indeed, groups of internally displaced remain vulnerable in all regions.


Gu season seeds programme

Preparations for the Gu season programme are under way and some 17,300 vulnerable families have been identified for a seed distribution of nearly 222 mt. This programme is limited to areas and groups who have not recently received seeds and who are particularly affected by the flood waves and access problems. It is envisaged that each family should receive 10 kg of cereal plus 2 kg of cowpea seeds and certain areas in Berdale and Tieglo would receive groundnut or sunflower seeds. Such crops are traditionally grown in these areas and seeds are locally obtainable.

The seed distribution aimed at farming families and agro-pastoralists partly overlaps with areas of WFP blanket food distributions. As a seed protection measure, 50% of the families should receive a half ration of food. As with the seeds, food can be procured locally. Each family would receive 30 kg of cereal, 10 kg of pulses and 5 kg of oil. In total, 8,650 families would receive a half ration of food as seed protection.


Reports of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) and other haemorrhagic diseases are on the decrease. Cholera has become a major area of concern with the annual cycle starting earlier and at a more intensive rate than usual. ICRC teams have been involved in providing support to Cholera Isolation Sites (CIS) in terms of medical, water and sanitation supplies and expertise. Several CIS have opened in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Hiran and Lower Juba as the outbreak spread from the cities to rural areas. Mogadishu's CIS are still admitting large numbers of patients and, in consultation with all partners in the battle against cholera in the region, the continued participation of the Benadir hospital in the programme was deemed necessary. Given the mobility of the population who are beginning to return home, the risk of transmission is high and it has therefore been decided to focus attention on re-designing the mobile teams (joint medical and water and sanitation) and its objectives which should now consist of monitoring, sample collection, health education, oral rehydration salt therapy and access to safe water and sanitation systems. Malaria was also reported as a big threat and the ICRC is keen to ensure support to areas such as Awdegle, Wanlaweyn and Hawadle.

Joint Federation/SRCS/ICRC mobile health teams started work in Marere and Jamame (Lower Juba) on 15 December and 16 January respectively. The objectives were to provide essential health care to villages and IDPs isolated from existing health structures due to the flood waters and to identify, train and supervise local health workers for health education and treatment of basic ailments. For the most part, prevailing weather conditions necessitated the use of a boat to access many locations. Nevertheless, between the end of January and mid February, the Marere team carried out 535 consultations of which 119 were for under fives. Malaria and diarrhoea represent about half of the diseases identified.

Now that the flood waters are beginning to recede, large parts of the population are seeking to return to their homes. Since threats of disease spreading are increased by such population movements, it is all the more essential that people are mindful of ways in which diseases are transmitted. As such, increased empahsis has been placed less on curative measures and more on preventive ones such as education programmes. The ICRC approach, which is carried out in close conjunction with community health workers, is coordinated with water and sanitation programmes.

Water and Sanitation

ICRC water and sanitation activities in response to the flooding along the Juba river are concentrated at the three main ICRC bases of Jamame, Marere and Jilib. Emergency installations of water purification points in these three areas has now been completed. Thirteen units are functioning in Jamame, 17 in Marere and 12 in Jilib. In a second phase of assistance, the ICRC has undertaken a well-rehabilitation programme between the North of Jilib and the sea. So far, one well in Jamame, 18 in Marere and 7 in Jilib have been rehabilitated, cleaned, pumped out and/or super-chlorinated.

Hand-pumps were installed and latrines built in Awdegle, Hawadle and Jamame's CIS and substantial rehabilitation work was carried out at Mogadishu Central Hospital. Further to a survey of Bulo Gudud's camp for the internally displaced, the ICRC delivered water tanks, chlorine and oral rehydration salts (ORS). Direct access to Baidoa was unfortunately not possible due to poor security but the ICRC was able to supply the town with intravenous fluids, ORS and other medical supplies through the SRCS. The CIS there is supervised by the SRCS and International Medical Care.