Water: All the Worry in Hawa's World

Published April 17, 2018 by Muna Ali

Hawa setting outside her house in Badhan, Sanaag region, Somalia March 2018

“I don’t know what year I was born or how old I am exactly but what I do know is we’re having the worst drought I’ve seen in all my years as a pastoralist,” says Hawa Farah Yusuf, a pastoralist in Sanaag region.

Even though the 2011 drought claimed their entire herd of 300 goats and sheep and 5 valuable camels, “this drought is like no other I’ve lived through” she maintains.

The 2011 drought which marked the end of a traditional way of life that the Hawa’s family led for generations, drove her family from a pastoral zone in Gebi Valley to the town of Badhan, in Sanaag region to look for new job opportunities to feed their family.

Already having experienced the hardship of being a pastoralist in severe drought conditions, adjusting to a more settled way of life in a new environment gave way to a new set of challenges. Hawa and her family were not able to easily get income because they lacked the skills set and capital.One of Hawa’s daughters would bring a little money from cleaning jobs. This meant they faced problems like threats of eviction as they couldn’t pay rent , late payment of school fees and sometimes having to choose between education for the children and food on the table. These trials were only worsened by the current drought.

The drought overspill to the rural and the urban poor households was devastating last year. Hawa’s family was struggling financially when the 2016-2017 drought reached its peak in Sanaag. And her daughter was no longer making in enough income as everyone was including urban households were affected by the drought. Jobs become few and far between, household purchasing power dropped significantly and cash flow became stagnant.

Of all the pressing needs Hawa’s family have faced, water was the most expensive and difficult to buy. Water prices rapidly rise during a drought, sometimes to double or triple the prices during normal circumstances. Even when Hawa’s family could access food from local shops on credit or receive charity from community members, water was and remains expensive for everyone. Suppliers would only provide water to those who pay upon delivery. This put the family who sometimes didn’t have the money in a very precarious situation.

“During the drought it is very difficult on those of us who don’t have a steady income.  Especially when the water prices increased and we can’t afford it. Sometimes we didn’t even have the money to buy water.”

Adeso's water trucking under the USAID/OFDA funded Drought Emergency Assistance Project for rural, pastoral and urban poor Communities in Somalia/Somaliland provided 4 months of water trucking to vulnerable and poor pastoral and rural households who have been affected by the drought. Hawa’s family in Badhan was one of 2,100 households (504,000 people) in Sanaag, Sool and Mudug regions who received  potable water, in addition to hygiene promotion kits and hygiene and sanitation training. Thanks to the project for 4 months Hawa's family had one less thing to worry about.

As the project comes to an end, the need for safe water by those most affected by the drought in Somalia still persists. Water, more than anything else at this time, is one of the most critical resources which is currently perilously scarce. The need for immediate and longer-term adequate water access is necessary for drought-prone areas so that people like Hawa’s family can access one of their most basic Human rights.