In Ethiopia, below-average rainfall has worsened the situation in the Somali region, already severely affected by protracted drought. Access to water, sanitation and health services critically low and livestock deaths have further reduced communities’ capacity to cope, resulting in food and nutrition insecurity.
When drought strikes women and children suffer the most. Mothers have to travel long distance to find water and food and they often struggle to feed their children. In stories below, we are celebrating strong mothers who go extra mile to keep their children safe and their families together.
SOMALI Region, 20 April 2017 – When Basazin Minda was requested to support the acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) response in Somali region, he did not hesitate. In fact, within one week, he handed over his duties to colleagues in UNICEF Oromia team and was in Jigjiga office.
Complex emergencies are not new to him. He was in Gambella when a South Sudanese refugee influx necessitated immediate WASH response. And when an AWD outbreak threatened lives in the southern cross-border town of Moyale, Basazin led the AWD WASH response and coordinated joint Kenya and Ethiopia control mechanisms. This is part of why he loves working with UNICEF – there is full support and resources to take quick action as well as the flexibility to respond where needed when communities are facing crisis, such as the AWD outbreak.
One lesson he learned from those past emergencies was that to have an impact, it required extensive human resources in the affected areas. Recently hired WASH Information Management Officers (IMOs) were available to support his team and he soon learned about UNICEF Health section’s C4D (Communication for Development) consultants, which could help spread the critical WASH messages to stop the spread of AWD.
AWD describes infections that can result in easily transmitted and potentially deadly diseases. The spread of such disease is very high in areas with water scarcity and can have a devastating impact on children who may already be undernourished. Additionally, those living in crowded spaces with poor access to WASH facilities, like the many temporarily displaced families, also face a higher risk.
The recent AWD outbreak peaked in Somali region in February 2017 and now more than 50 per cent of the woredas (districts) are reporting active cases. Particularly due to the current Horn of Africa drought, there are refugees coming from neighbouring Somalia, as well as temporarily displaced Ethiopian Somalis, as people move in search of water, food and pasture for their livestock. The predominately pastoralist Somali region is the worst drought-affected area in Ethiopia with over 30 per cent of the region’s population requiring food assistance in 2017. Living conditions of these temporarily displaced people are often inadequate and widespread open defecation poses a risk of the spread of AWD, among other disease outbreaks.
Upon arrival, Basazin began a series of discussions with people from UNICEF, the Regional Water Bureau (RWB) and the zonal command post. What he learned immediately on the ground was a little different than he had prepared himself for. He came for mass chlorination of boreholes to stop the spread of AWD. However, he identified that boreholes are protected. “This is what can be so interesting about emergencies. You go in with one mind set and task and immediately are faced with a reality that may differ. The problem was not the water sources, so the contamination had to be happening at some point after water is collected, either during collection or storage,” Basazin explains.
Like detectives, Basazin and the newly formed team began contacting local water office staff and meeting with various community members to pinpoint where this contamination was coming from. The team concluded that contamination was occurring from water trucking, during the transport of water (usually by donkey cart) and at the household level, where dirty jerry cans were utilized repeatedly. Now the task has shifted to a multi-effort approach including mass chlorination of water trucks, community awareness campaigns to ensure clean jerry cans and training sessions for local water staff on chlorination standards.
The RWB staff know about chlorination, however at this critical time of drought and AWD, with a mobile team equipped with testing kits, jerry cans and barrels of HTH chlorine solution, everyone was eager to learn more from practical demonstrations. A key lesson that was missing before now was how to calculate correct measurements of chlorine according to the container size to ensure disinfection. Referencing UNICEF WASH guidelines, Basazin prepared a guideline of chlorination and turbid water purification with these specific calculations included and it was subsequently distributed to all water offices in the region.
The feedback was positive after the training and RWB staff proliferated the learning by sharing demonstration photos through their Viber group, a mobile messaging application utilized by all Somali RWB staff.
One water office participant commented after a demonstration, “Assistance has come through here and sometimes guidance is offered, but not like this. Receiving evidence-based participatory training makes a big difference.”
Basazin did not always explain the calculations and guidelines. Another lesson his work has taught him is to tailor his WASH messages according to the audience. “AWD bugs will attack the water if it finds it without chlorine and consequently the attack will reach to human beings.” There was laughter when Basazin used this metaphor.
The team is working through Good Friday, the big Easter holiday and weekends to curb the outbreak and spirits remain high. Basazin’s energy and commitment to ensuring his work has impact is easily detected as he speaks. “I like to learn today and implement for tomorrow,” he says. “Perhaps another idea coming from this mission is that we should highlight a jerry can and water truck washing day, just as we promote handwashing day.” He is also quick to admit this is not a one-man show. With the UNICEF Jijiga and Addis team and the community, mass chlorination is taking place exactly where needed to curb the AWD outbreak.
03 May 2017,ADDIS ABABA – The European Union (EU) has given €3 million in humanitarian funds to support UNICEF’s emergency interventions in Ethiopia. The new grant will provide life-saving nutrition treatment for severely malnourished children living in drought-affected areas of the country.
In Ethiopia, below-average rainfall has worsened the situation in Somali, Afar, and parts of Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s (SNNP) regions, already severely affected by protracted drought. Access to water, sanitation and health services in these areas is critically low. In addition, livestock deaths have further reduced communities’ capacity to cope, resulting in food and nutrition insecurity. An estimated 303,000 children under the age of five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2017.
“We are grateful for EU’s continuous and generous assistance for life-saving interventions addressing malnutrition at this critical time,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “We believe that the funding will significantly improve the health condition of children affected by the current drought and reduce the long term impact of malnutrition including life-long cognitive impairments.”
The EU humanitarian funding will support UNICEF to reduce child mortality and morbidity associated with SAM. In order to reach vulnerable children in remote areas, UNICEF will support the Government to expand existing healthcare services and provide treatment supplies – including ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF), therapeutic milk, and medicines. The intervention will also aim at mobilizing communities’ awareness on preventing malnutrition.
“As devastating drought hits pastoral communities in the south and south-east of Ethiopia, bringing in its wake Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) , food and water shortages, the EU is scaling up funding to provide children with vital nutrition care,” said Ségolène de Beco, Ethiopia Head of Office for EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). “Infants and young children are extremely vulnerable to a combination of malnutrition and diseases. To avoid unnecessary deaths and suffering, we need to respond to the needs of these children in time with appropriate treatment and care.”
The concerted efforts of UNICEF with the EU, the Government of Ethiopia and other partners, will relieve the suffering of children while continuing to build long term resilience and strengthening the Government’s capacity to respond to future nutrition emergencies.
DANOT, SOMALI, 15 February 2017 – “A woman never tells her age,” says Sadeh Abdihayii with a smile, affirming that this taboo is common around the world. She then admits to be 40 years old. We continue, asking her how many of her children are in school. With eight children ranging from nine months to 20 years old, none of them, including Sadeh, have been to school. Ever.
Sadeh had hoped one of them could go to school, but circumstances did not allow. “It seems sensible to learn, but we have not been able to,” says Sadeh.
Living through drought
Sometimes Sadeh’s family lives in the vicinity of an organized village or town, such as now just outside Qorile kebele (sub-district), yet often they can be far away from any organized services including healthcare and schools. This is the life of a pastoralist family.
Sadeh’s family is one of the over 800 families that have temporarily settled in Danot woreda (district), in the eastern horned-tip part of Ethiopia. The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) has set up these temporary sites to provide life-saving medical and nutrition services, water and food during this drought period for one of the most vulnerable communities in the country, livestock-raising pastoralists.
Drought has hit these lowland areas across the Horn of Africa many times over the years, but Sadeh has never experienced one that devastated her livestock to this extent. Due to the negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), a weather phenomenon, the December rains failed, making it 12 months since many villages in the area have experienced rain.
It is understandable why school has not been possible for many of these children, whether considering the current food and water shortages, or the nomadic patterns of their life. The regular school system does not fit into this lifestyle and it is a reality that is not often at the forefront of parents’ worries. With little or no safety net, pastoralist mothers and fathers are concerned with water, food and grazing land.
The GoE however, in partnership with UNICEF, has developed alternative methods to reach children, even those in remote areas.
Adapting education to the pastoralist context
With support from UNICEF, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has developed a pastoralist education strategy which is implemented across Somali and Afar, as well as some parts of Oromia and Southern Nations and Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP), regions where pastoralists are prominent.
The core intervention is a school equivalence programme, adapted for children ages 7 to 14, where students learn the equivalent of the first four grades of primary school before transitioning into formal schools. This Alternative Basic Education (ABE), is based on the national education system but has altered facets wherever necessary to make it feasible for the pastoralist context. Such alterations include low-cost construction of schools as well as flexible locations and schedules to accommodate children who herd their families’ animals or move in certain seasons.
While ABE is the most commonly implemented strategy for inclusion of pastoralist children, reaching 276,777 students over a period of six years, the GoE encourages families to enrol their children in formal schools whenever possible. UNICEF supports this initiative by identifying and addressing barriers to children joining school. Such interventions range from rehabiliting WASH facilities at schools to ensure proper toilets and water is available, to constructing temporary learning spaces or formal schooling in addition to providing exercise books for families who cannot afford the expense. Additionally, the GoE implements a school feeding programme to encourage school attendance, currently in 252 schools across Somali region.
More than ever, these crucial interventions are needed now , particularly as hundreds of ABE schools across Somali region are currently closed due to drought conditions.
‘Maybe somehow one day’
Families gathered near Qorile, such as Sadeh’s, are encouraged to enrol their children in the Qorile primary school, which is within walking distance, even if it may only be for short term. While the drought situation is dire, there is now an opportunity for thousands of children to attend school while their families are receiving temporary assistance to keep their livelihoods afloat.
Sadeh’s eldest child, Halimo Bandais, comments, “I thought about school sometimes. But I have always been looking after the animals and we are moving here and there. How could I? But some of us will, perhaps my child.” Perhaps he will attend school one day. For now, hundreds of school-age children such as the girls neighbouring Sadeh’s tent, Feysa and Isthel, may be able to finally start their education while in the temporary settlement sites with adequate funding.
UNICEF is committed to the right of every child to receive an education. With contributions from international donors, the GoE, along with UNICEF and other education partners can expand programmes such as ABE or temporary learning spaces to ensure children such as those temporarily settled in Qorile, have an opportunity to access education.
06 April 2017, ADDIS ABABA – The Government of Japan announced a US$2 million grant to UNICEF to assist water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), nutrition and prevention of acute watery diarrhoea in drought affected populations in the Somali region. The WASH sector will be taking the lion’s share with US$1,500,000 and the rest US$500,000 will be utilized by nutrition programme within an implementation period of six months. This assistance is provided as a swift response to the joint call for support by Deputy Prime Minister Mr Demeke Mekonnen and United Nations Secretary-General Mr Antonio Guterres at UNECA on 29 January 2017 on the occasion of the High Level Forum on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia.
The funding from the Japan Government aims to improve access to safe and reliable water to 115,000 women, men, boys and girls through drilling of new boreholes, rehabilitating non-functional water points and providing non-food items for distribution. In addition, 9,000 children with severe acute malnutrition will receive adequate treatment and 31,488 mothers and caregivers will be trained on adequate infant and young child feeding practices during emergency. The funding will also help prevent and control water-borne diseases, particularly the transmission of acute watery diarrhoea among affected and at-risk populations by securing access to safe water.
Ambassador of Japan to Ethiopia, Mr Shinichi Saida said, “We sincerely hope that Japan’s urgent humanitarian assistance for the drought response will reach the most vulnerable people as swiftly as possible and have a quick impact on the affected communities. Japan appreciates the WASH sector emergency response and its delivery promoted by Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity in Ethiopia and UNICEF Ethiopia.”
“Children are extremely vulnerable in emergencies, often living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions and at high risk of contracting diseases,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “This contribution is a tangible demonstration of Japan’s commitment to safeguard children’s future and enhance resilience building of communities affected by the recurrent drought.”
Adding to an already dire situation, during the second half of 2016, a strong negative impact of Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) led to below-average rainfall in different parts of Ethiopia including the Somali region. As a result, the water level declined significantly with seasonal rivers, springs and ponds drying up earlier than normal and increasing frequency of non-functionality of water supply schemes due to over utilization.
UNICEF is currently involved in operations across all the drought affected regions and contributes to the ongoing drought response effort through water trucking, rehabilitation of non-functional water supply schemes, building water storage capacity at critical and good yielding boreholes, provision of therapeutic food supplies, screening of children and pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition and monitoring for the provision of quality nutrition services.
UNICEF’s drought response activities are guided by its Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, which prioritize timely response in key lifesaving sectors, namely nutrition, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene.
On 03 April 2017, UNICEF, WFP, and UN-OCHA went on a joint one-day field visit with the German Minister for Development Cooperation (BMZ) to Kebri Dahar and Waaf Duug Temporary Resettlement Site in Doolo Zone, Somali Region, Ethiopia. The Minister was accompanied by 16 German journalists, BMZ officials, German Embassy partners, GiZ and KfW. The Somali Regional President and key regional government counterparts have also joined the field visit. The visit was part of the German Minister’s visit to Ethiopia to discuss the Marshall Plan for Africa with Ethiopian Government and AU Officials.
The Minister and his delegation visited the Urban WASH programme (borehole and water trucking) in Kebri Dahar town, as well as UNICEF’s emergency Health, Nutrition and WASH programmes in the Waaf Dhuug Resettlement Site for drought displaced people. More specifically, the Minister was able to see a Mobile Health and Nutrition Team operating with the German funded vehicles, a stabilization centre for severely malnourished children that utilizes German funded Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and a water point. The Minister also visited WFP’s school feeding programme at the Waaf Dhuug primary school and a WFP food distribution.
Waaf Dhuug Temporary Resettlement Site (TRS) hosts 4,500 host community and 3,882 drought displaced people, of which more than 85 per cent are women and children from surrounding grassing areas. The site was established in January 2017 and is one of the 58 Temporary Resettlement Site established by the Somali Regional Government in response to the drought emergency. Majority of the pastoralist community have moved into the TRS due to extensive loss of livestock as a result of the drought. They have left their villages in search of water and health and nutrition services for themselves and their children. Discussing with the Minister, Kadar Kaydsane, 35 years old and a mother of 10 said, “We walked for five hours to get to Waaf Dhuug and we lost all our livestock on the way. We came here to find water and other services provided by the Government.”
The Minister and German development partners recognized the importance of investing in building resilience, for instance through funding water schemes and strengthening Government systems, such as the Health Extension Programme. The Minister further appreciated the German Government’s strong partnership with UNICEF and was impressed by the integrated drought emergency response at the resettlement site, but recognized that the challenges are very complex and the required funding remains significant. As a response to the dire need of the people affected by the drought, the Minister announced that German funds for the Horn of Africa drought response will be increased from 100 million Euro to 300 million Euro.
MIESSO, SOMALI, 15 January 2017 – “When the borehole was broken for a year and a half, I used to go to the nearby river for water, which is 12 km away from here. I have five children but I only managed to get one or two jerry cans of water for my family. I was not able to clean or bathe my children regularly at that time. That was difficult,” says Fathiya Ali Aadan, a 32-year-old mother of five living in Miesso town.
Miesso is a small, remote town in the same-named woreda (district) located about 150 km west of the administrative city, Dire Dawa. Out of five non-functional water supply systems in Miesso woreda, one borehole was rehabilitated in the town by the Regional Water Bureau (RWB) in December 2016 with assistance from UNICEF, from the generous support of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The emergency water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) intervention benefits 3,500 households in the town as well as the school and health centre.
The Miesso woreda administration office reports that there are currently 86 non-functional boreholes in the woreda, a key intervention necessary to improve the water situation, which is only one part of the challenges facing families in the region. Since most of the region is prone to drought and pastoralist livelihoods critically depend on water, non-functionality of water schemes requires immediate response to save lives of people and their livestock. It also affects children’s opportunity to learn.
At Mulli School, which includes grades one through twelve, a 14-year-old, grade eight student Ibrahim Mohamed explains, “Before, we had to return back home to get water when there was no water at school. It was a big interruption of class.” The impact of water scarcity also causes some schools to close, such as last year after the failure of deyr rains (October-December). Additionally, pastoralist families may move in search of water, thus taking children and even teachers away from school.
“Now we can drink water, keep our clothes clean, wash our hands after using the bathroom and most importantly for me, there is no longer need to go back home to get water during class. Girls need water for menstrual hygiene at school as well,” says Hayat Yusuf Adan, a 13-year-old, grade eight student.
Thanks to the rehabilitated borehole, Hayat’s school managed to remain open. While water supply at school tends to be neglected during emergency, it is clear that water availability contributes to retaining children in school. UNICEF is committed to support the Government of Ethiopia and implementing partners to improve the WASH situation for schools and families across Somali region to protect the futures of children and the livelihoods of their families.