REPORTER: Milward Mwamvani – International Aid Services
Three weeks ago I returned from visiting the Sanaag Region of Somaliland/Somalia, following up on IAS’ various interventions. It was initially very encouraging to see the sprouting grass and fresh shoots from the desert bushes – a positive contrast from my last visit to the region in April following some brief rains in the area. Driving through the wilderness, my colleagues lamented the fact that these places used to be populated by a lot of livestock (camels, goats, sheep), but now one could just spot a few clusters of animals here and there – effects of a devastating drought.
The communities of largely nomadic herders are devastated! Many seem to be in shock from the loss of unbelievably high numbers of their livestock. Some of the people I got a chance to talk to had migrated from the area at the peak of the drought to go east in Puntland in search for pasture for their livestock, but they were back in the area, telling the same story that everyone can tell – tremendous loss …
Going to the north-west of Garadag in the region, the brief smiles disappeared from our faces as we got into a part of the region that had not received any of the rains the other parts had seen. One could clearly see the desperation in talking to members of the community. If these rains fail again, this can be catastrophic.
As we continue to serve among the people of Sanaag, our hope is that there will be some turn around in the climatic conditions. We are thankful to various donors from Denmark, Germany, the USA, and Sweden who have enabled us to provide some of the most affected communities with food, water, and medical supplies for a health centre. As we continue to hope for the best for the people of Sanaag, we trust that others will join in the efforts to ensure that these precious people not only survive this devastating drought, but also recover to get back to self-sustaining communities.
REPORTER: Milward Mwamvani
“I had one hundred animals (sheep, goats and camels), but now I only have 20, and I do not know how long they will survive.” These were the words of Hawa Darmar in Tura Village, Garadag District of Sanaag Region, Somaliland.
The IAS Humanitarian Coordinator Milward Mwamvani was in the village for a fact-finding mission and monitoring of a drought-response intervention. After several meetings with stakeholders both in Nairobi and Hargeisa, this was an eye opener. For some time, IAS has been receiving updates on the drought situation in the areas where we have been actively engaging in various projects both in the past and presently.
The drought situation has become dire in the area, as reports also confirm the general situation in Somalia/Somaliland. The story of Hawa is just one of the many sad stories that are told in this area, and other areas affected by the drought. Hawa has been displaced by the drought as she tries to find means to survive the crisis.
Moursul Salaa Hamid is one of the people affected in Taygara village. Here is how our chat went on April 12, 2017:
Milwards Question: What is your livelihood here?
Moursal: I keep livestock.
Q: How many did you have?
Moursal: I had 690 animals (600 goats and sheep, and 90 camels)
Q: How many do you have now?
Moursal: I have 20 camels and 30 goats and sheep remaining
Q: How big is your family?
Moursal: There are eleven of us in my home.
Q: You have received 25kg of rice, 25kg wheat flour, 3 liters cooking oil and 10kg dates. How long do you think these will last?
Moursal: Maybe about 15 days.
Q: What will you do after that?
Moursal: We will wait for God to act.
This is a story that can be told by many. Talking to Huse Mire Ali, a Village Elder in Shiisha Village, he expressed that he has never seen anything like the present situation in his lifetime, with villagers suffering due to lack of food and water. He hoped that his people would get more help.
IAS seeks to continue responding in the Sanaag Region and other affected areas. A lot of money is needed to get enough food and water for the people and their animals to avert a worse disaster in the area. As water has been brought to the community in trucks, the signs are that the current water source is about to dry up. One of the drivers of the trucks explained that they were presently getting the water from a place about 120km away from this particular location. He also indicated that soon they may have to get the water as far as 170km. The rains are considered late already, and everyone is now panicking, not knowing what could happen beyond this… Will you partner with us and support us to respond to the crisis in Somalia/Somaliland?
/Milward Mwamvani photo and text, on location April 2017 (post created & updated 19 Apr – HB)
December 3rd 2015, Somalia/Somaliland
IAS is doing a lot of work for persons with disabilities and today on International Day of Persons with Disabilities we want to higlight this storey from the field:
For ten years 17 year old Hodan from Somalia/Somaliland was pushed around in a wheelbarrow. Besides the discomfort, she was always dependent on someone to take her around. A wheelchair and a specially made toilet from IAS gave Hordan the opportunity to a dignified life.
Hodan Jama Osman is 17 years old and was born at Jaamalaaye village, Berbera town in Sahil Region. She is the first child in a family of eight, with her being the only one with a disability. Hodan is physically challenged and has never developed speech. However, she can respond to sound.
For ten years Hodan has been pushed around in a wheelbarrow by her mother.
– When Hodan grew older it became to heavy to carry her on the back so the wheelbarrow was the only option, says Hodans mother, Anab Haibe Idle.
Improved education since 1992
IAS established its presence in Somalia/Somaliland in 1992, and has over the years worked to improve the educational environment and infrastructure.
-In various parts of the country, teacher and community training programs, special needs education and skills training also have been developed, thanks to IAS work,” says Milward.
The primary purpose of distributing the assistive devices is to encourage children with disabilities to be in school.
-One of the excuses the parents have for not sending their children to school is the mobility, says Milward.
Wheelbarrow exchanged to wheelchair
And some weeks ago the life of Hodan and her mother were completely changed. For the first time in 17 years, Hordan received a wheelchair and her own toilet seat. This meant a lot of new freedom for her and a heavy burden was unloaded from both Hodan and her mother.
-Now she can have a dignified life. Before, she was dependent on someone else to move her around. Now that she has a wheelchair, she can push herself to where she needs to be, including going to the toilet. It´s also a great relief for me as I now have time to do other things, says Anab.
Disabled children hidden in homes
Anab is a member of IAS family network in the area where parents of children with disabilities can learn about how to care for their children and support each other.
-The network is very important since children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion. It is not uncommon that these children are being hidden in the homes since the parents believe the disability is a curse says Milward Mwamvani, IAS Acting Country Director in Somalia/Somaliland.
In these meetings, the parents also builds an organized platform from which they can lobby government to enhance the support of children with disabilities. As a result of these meetings, more and more families in the area are not hiding their children anymore.
-These meetings has meant a lot to me and it was also here I got information about the distribution of disability mobility devices, says Anab.
The devices are sourced by IAS’s local partner in Somaliland (Taakulo Somaliland Community – TASCO), through the Australian Doctors for Africa.
Text: Rebecka Woods
Photo: Milward Mwamvani