Extreme Weather Conditions
Developing countries are set to receive $100 billion worth of funding from wealthy countries to combat extreme weather conditions. In 2009, wealthy countries pledged to commit $100 billion annually from 2020 onward to disadvantaged countries struggling with the impacts of changing weather patterns. However, only now, three years after the pledge, these countries are on track to fully meet this commitment. On May 2, 2023, more than 40 country representatives met in Berlin, Germany, to discuss effective ways to tackle harsh weather changes.

Severe Weather Changes

Currently, the change in weather patterns is affecting people worldwide, from dried-up lakes in California and rising sea levels in Venice to mega-droughts in Somalia and floods in South Sudan. Extreme weather conditions most harshly affect impoverished people due to their dependence on vulnerable sectors such as agriculture.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 65% of the labor force works in agriculture. Floods and droughts not only destroy their source of income but also their sources of food. Extreme weather events also increase the risk and transmission of diseases such as cholera and malaria, especially among impoverished populations with high exposure to these diseases and limited access to health care.

Furthermore, impoverished people struggle to recover from extreme weather events due to a lack of access to insurance and credit. A lack of education and lack of access to information also stand as barriers to achieving climatic resilience.

The Situation in Somalia and South Sudan

Recent reports show that Somalia’s last rainfall season (October to December 2022) consisted of below-average rainfall for the fifth consecutive year, depleting water sources in the country and increasing droughts. The country is one of the worst drought-affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011, after three back-to-back seasons without sufficient rain, the country experienced a famine that led to the deaths of about 250,000 people, with children accounting for half of this number.

Due to continuing extreme weather conditions, in the first quarter of 2023, the World Food Programme (WFP) forecasted that 6.3 million Somalis will face crisis levels of food insecurity or worse and more than 320,000 people will face catastrophic levels of food insecurity (the highest insecurity level) out of Somalia’s 17.1 million population.

South Sudan is currently facing its worst humanitarian crisis since 2011. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that at least 7.7 million people are experiencing food insecurity due to the ongoing conflict in the nation coupled with severe weather conditions.

With the conflict putting people’s lives on hold and keeping them from conducting any type of work to get money and food, alongside the increase in temperatures making the land in South Sudan barren, there is a need for aid from foreign countries and organizations like the U.N. now more than ever.

The WFP Takes Action

In December 2022, the WFP served 4.7 million people in Somalia with life-saving assistance, which came in the form of cash-based aid or food supplies. The WFP also provided aid to nearly 352,000 vulnerable people facing the effects of droughts in the country under the expansion of the national safety net program, which aims to support the poorest and most vulnerable families.

In South Sudan, the WFP handed out more than 13,880 metric tonnes of food and $3.6 million worth of cash-based aid. In February 2023 alone, the WFP assisted 1.6 million people impacted by climate effects and the nation’s internal conflict.

The WFP South Sudan director Mary-Ellen McGroarty announced that the organization needs an additional $567 million to continue covering the most severe needs in South Sudan alone, excluding the effects of the current conflict.

The WFP funding for South Sudan goes to a number of great causes. For instance, in 2022, the organization built irrigation systems in rural towns and helped local farmers gain access to larger markets. WFP programs not only provide food and cash-based assistance but also teach people how to prepare for potential extreme weather patterns and establish resilience by creating climate-smart food systems.

The Way Forward

A European Union study on changing weather effects predicted that by 2050, increased temperatures and higher demand could leave as many as 150 million people in the world severely affected by water stress. The 2023 climate pledge reaching the designated amount of $100 billion is good news for organizations helping those in need in developing countries.

Funding is essential for tackling extreme weather conditions. Hence, the $100 billion provision from developed countries will help to advance resilience and sustainability goals and address the humanitarian issues that arise from changing weather patterns.

– Sam Kalantzis
Photo: Flickr

SCOPE cardsIn 2016, the World Food Programme (WFP) introduced SCOPE, a digital platform that manages beneficiary information and transfer, to provide “personalized and helpful assistance” to the recipients of their aid. The platform uses blue digital cards known as SCOPE cards to tackle poverty and hunger through improved resource distribution.

How the Cards Work

To receive a SCOPE card, individuals are required to provide basic personal information such as name, age, gender and biometric data in the form of a fingerprint. This helps the WFP keep track of recipients, prevent fraudulent activities like duplicate cards or false identities and ensure that resources reach the intended parties. When collecting monthly allowances using the SCOPE card, recipients use their fingerprints and personal codes for verification. The cards work for withdrawals in the form of cash or digital vouchers and beneficiaries can also use mobile phones to complete transactions.

Every time a beneficiary makes a purchase in a store using a SCOPE card, the system establishes an electronic connection to verify the individual’s identity, records the transaction and deducts the cost from the balance. This process also provides the WFP with valuable feedback on the purchased foods and products, enabling them to adapt and respond to needs and deliver consistent support efficiently.

SCOPE in Somalia

In response to ongoing severe droughts in Somalia, which displaced almost one million individuals and left more than three million people seeking humanitarian aid, the European Union (EU) and its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) gave the WFP almost €18 million to use as financial aid in 2017.

Initially, over 40,000 families received support through e-vouchers for food. The subsequent introduction of SCOPE cards and monthly cash withdrawals has given individuals more freedom in choosing how they spend and provided new investment opportunities in areas like education and healthcare.

The WFP shares success stories such as Habiba’s, who struggled to earn $8 a month from occasional washing jobs she found after being forced to move to Mogadishu. However, the $80 a month she receives from ECHO is now a “lifeline” for her. Moreover, the “added value of supporting and stimulating local trade in areas where markets continue to function” offers promise for individuals, families and communities.

SCOPE in Iraq

SCOPE has also been implemented in Iraq to support the over three million conflict-displaced citizens alongside thousands of Syrian refugees. With more than $32 million in funding from ECHO, the project launched in the northern Kurdish region of Akre, a hotspot of Syrian and Iraqi families seeking shelter. Iraq’s WFP Country Director hailed the program as a “turning point.”

WFP’s SCOPE cards, cash and vouchers and food collection points have made significant progress in alleviating food insecurity and enabling families to prioritize other needs during times of crisis. Currently, 70,000 Syrian refugees and nearly half of all displaced Iraqis are receiving WFP assistance.

Looking Ahead

SCOPE cards show how new technologies and innovative systems can constantly improve the reach and efficiency of efforts that aim to alleviate hunger and poverty. The WFP continues to roll out initiatives in refugee camps and other places around the world, giving underserved populations access to the support they need.

– Helene Schlichter
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in SomaliaSomalia, a large country nestled in the Horn of Africa, is one of many developing countries affected by the AIDS epidemic, though not to the extent of other areas within sub-Saharan Africa. Though Somalia notes a relatively low prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS at 0.10% in 2022, organizations are working on further progress in the area of HIV/AIDS in Somalia.

HIV/AIDS in Somalia in Numbers

When the epidemic began in Somalia in 1990, an estimated 2,500 Somali people lived with HIV. This number reached a peak of 15,000 in 2005. However, since then, incidents of  HIV/AIDS in Somalia have steadily reduced. In 2021, an estimated 7,700 people lived with HIV/AIDS in Somalia, according to data from UNAIDS. In terms of gender, HIV/AIDS impacts more women than men. In 2021, women accounted for 52% of people 15 and older living with the condition in Somalia. Young women are more likely than men to contract a new HIV infection as they are more likely to face gender-based violence and are more harshly impacted by poverty and inequality. However, Somalia notes an equal split in the number of AIDS-related deaths according to gender.

The Impact of Poverty and Stigma

Close to 70% of Somali people are living below the poverty line, according to 2022 statistics. The decades-long war and severe weather conditions have contributed to both poverty and food insecurity. Living in poverty can be a catalyst for contracting HIV. Similarly, contracting HIV can deepen already existing poverty.

Conditions of poverty can lead to risky behaviors such as participating in transactional sex for food or shelter. Poverty is also a risk factor for developing unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, which lowers the chance of taking precautionary measures to protect against HIV. Improper drug use, such as the reusing of contaminated needles, can also cause HIV.

Additionally, the health care system in Somalia is poor. As of 2020, the existing health care system within Somalia is largely privatized. This means that impoverished Somalis, especially those living in rural areas, do not have access to affordable health care. In fact, estimates indicate that less than 30% of Somali people have access to health care.

The stigma and shame surrounding HIV/AIDS serve as a barrier to testing, diagnosis and treatment. People living with HIV experience discrimination and alienation not just from society but also from health care workers. For this reason, people are reluctant to utilize HIV services and visit clinics/hospitals. Oftentimes, people living with HIV “…only [became] aware of their HIV-positive status” when their partner received a positive diagnosis or “when the individual fell ill and all other attempts at healing them did not work,” according to a research study by Abdulwahab M. Salad and others published online in 2022.

Solutions to Addressing HIV/AIDS in Somalia

Within Somalia, the World Health Organization (WHO) focuses on addressing the epidemic by ensuring greater access to ART drugs, HIV testing and counseling. The WHO states that “Somalia is holding its own in comparison with immediate neighbors and other countries in the region” and that by the end of December 2022, 4,100 patients across Somalia were receiving antiretroviral therapy with the help of the WHO.

The WHO works in Somalia alongside the Global Fund. The Global Fund provided an investment of $18.6 million for the period of 2021 to 2023 to strengthen the HIV response in Somalia. This investment aims to “support Somalia in its goals of accelerating progress toward 95-95-95 HIV testing and treatment targets, reducing new HIV cases, mortality and morbidity by 30% and significantly reducing HIV-related discrimination in health care settings,” the Global Fund website says.

Visible Progress

Indeed, progress is visible as the Somali HIV National Strategic Plan states “…projected rates of new HIV infections dropped significantly from year 2000 to 2010 with numbers plateauing from 2012 to date. The early decline of new infections could be attributed to the strong cultural drive as well as heightened prevention interventions.”

Due to Somalia’s progression in reducing the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate from more than 1% in 2013 to 0.10% in 2022, Somalia maintains its status as “a low-level HIV epidemic country” as classified in 2014. Overall, Somalia is making significant progress as AIDS-related deaths are steadily declining and ART coverage rates are increasing, UNAIDS data shows.

But, it is imperative to continue advocating in other areas, such as poverty and stigma reduction, education, safe sex and drug use harm reduction for these numbers to continue dropping and to fully eradicate HIV/AIDS within Somalia.

– Chloe Jenkins
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Somalia
As the water crisis in Somalia continues so too does the threat to all Somalian lives. The country, alongside neighboring regions, is experiencing the most severe drought in 40 years and, with the April to May rains predicted to be at subnormal levels, the situation is only likely to worsen. To attribute the dire conditions and water supply issues to the current drought would be an oversimplification. Levels of rain largely impact any water supply, particularly in Somalia, which is part desert and has only two permanent rivers. But, one needs to consider the systemic failings alongside this in order to fully understand the gravity of the situation that prevails in Somalia.

A Lack of Resources and Regulation

According to the Somalia Water Shortage Update, by April 23, 2022, an estimated 4.2 million people in Somalia faced “severe water shortages.” The civil war, which has now raged for three decades, has had a profound impact on the country’s water systems with a lack of governance and regulation in place to coordinate and/or advance any existing framework.

The WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) 2019 – SDG report said, “40% of existing water sources are non-functional,” resulting in shortages across the country. “Weak water supply management models” and the high costs of operating and maintaining water systems stand as some of the reasons behind the lack of functional water sources.

At the government level, there is a lack of accountability, which makes planning and regulation impossible. As researcher Mourad Khaldoon notes in a study published in 2022, “Somalia is not a water-scarce country, it lacks good water governance.”

The continued civil unrest and humanitarian crises put further strain on an already strained system. The ongoing conflict has led to the internal displacement of about 3 million people in Somalia. This has led to the overuse of groundwater pumps and increased strain on infrastructure, leaving those in search of water found wanting. The hefty water costs of more than a dollar per cubic meter and the long distances individuals must travel to obtain water, along with the potential contamination of water, continue to be the greatest challenges for the poorest.

Water Contamination in Somalia

Without sufficient supply, desperation takes hold and those in need are reduced to conditions that leave them vulnerable to illness. The connection between supply and sanitation is important to consider. As supply decreases, the already limited resources are shared, resulting in water contamination. Somalia’s greatest source of water, accounting for 80%, is groundwater. But, groundwater is subjected to high levels of pollution due to a number of factors, including the extensive use of pit latrines and shallow underground tanks; high rates of open defecation; livestock and humans sharing the same water points and inappropriate wastewater disposal.

Surveys conducted in 2019 at water points by the UNICEF Somalia Country office indicated “high levels of fecal contamination in water supplies at source, point of collection and point of use.” Without any robust measures in place to regulate the quality of water, the spread of disease is inevitable. Similarly, a lack of education about sanitation further compounds existing issues as at-risk communities lack insight into water contamination and the risks of consuming such water.

The Humanitarian Impact

The WHO says, “No intervention has greater overall impact upon national development and public health than the provision of safe drinking water and proper disposal of human waste,” the Muslim Hands website highlights.

The continued drought in Somalia only serves to heighten the existing water crisis in Somalia. A water assessment published in 2019 with the support of UNICEF highlighted that 2.7 million people required humanitarian aid in the form of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) support. Specifically, one-third of households reported a lack of “sufficient drinking water” and about half reported a lack of access to improved latrines, improved water sources and soap.

Thirst is forcing people to make perilous journeys displacing the population while a lack of resources and sanitation are increasing the risk of contracting easily preventable diseases. As these conditions continue, the country continues to fall into further poverty, and while rain is unlikely to provide a long-term solution for Somalians, it would at least provide some level of hope to those suffering most.

UNICEF’s Response in Somalia

UNICEF’s response to the water crisis in Somalia is comprehensive. UNICEF provides the Somali government with support to establish sustainable water systems and helps improve access to toilets while encouraging proper hygiene practices in communities and an end to open defecation. UNICEF also helps the government to link more education facilities to clean water supplies. Additionally, UNICEF is helping the country to maintain and rehabilitate water and sanitation systems, among other efforts.

Humanitarian efforts by organizations such as UNICEF will continue to support Somalia in its water crisis be it through emergency water supplies and practical maintenance or education while The Borgen Project continues to foster upstream change through advocacy, appealing for more U.S. attention to the water crisis in Somalia.

– Rebekah Crilly
Photo: Flickr

Aid in Somalia
Since 2015, the African nation of Somalia has experienced five consecutive rainy season failures. The country is currently facing yet another drought, which will have serious impacts on food insecurity in the country. Humanitarian organizations like the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have made efforts to provide humanitarian aid in Somalia to combat the drought and prevent famine in the region. However, OCHA has faced obstacles in delivering aid in Somalia due to conflict in the area.

Conflict and Poverty in Somalia

Somalia has been in a state of civil war since 1988. Despite numerous attempts at peace, the conflict has failed to come to a resolution and has severely impacted poverty in the country. According to a World Bank report from 2019, almost 70% of the population of Somalia lived in poverty. Of the millions of people internally displaced due to the conflict, 74% endured poverty. The conflict has not only contributed to poverty in the country but has also presented barriers to delivering humanitarian aid in Somalia.

How Violence Makes Aid Difficult

Providing humanitarian aid in Somalia has proven difficult due to violence in some areas. According to OCHA, 565 “access incidents” were reported in 2022, threatening the “safety of aid workers” and the delivery of aid. More than 375,000 people living in areas controlled by armed non-state groups need humanitarian aid but are out of the reach of humanitarian organizations like OCHA. In Laas Caanood, aid programs, such as “school feeding, safety net and nutrition” initiatives, faced delays due to the risk of violence and conflict, affecting more than 15,700 households, a February 2023 OCHA situation report says. Despite these hurdles, OCHA continued to find ways to safely aid those in need.

Successful Aid Missions

To reach those in need, OCHA carried out multiple “caravan missions” using a U.N. Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) Cessna Caravan aircraft and a World Food Programme (WFP) helicopter. According to an OCHA situation report, the organization conducted 38 aid missions to 34 hard-to-access locations in Somalia between June 2021 and August 2022. Many of these areas had not seen humanitarian aid missions for a while. These missions helped aid “vulnerable people in hard-to-reach areas” and stand as examples of the determination of organizations like OCHA to provide humanitarian aid in Somalia.

OCHA also detailed successful operations in the Banadir region, an area with circumstances considered both “volatile and unpredictable” with aid workers often facing road closures and checkpoints when attempting to access hard-hit areas.

Despite these challenges, however, OCHA has proved successful in providing humanitarian aid to Somalia. In 2022, the organization reached 96% of its targeted population, providing aid to some 7.3 million people in the country. Initially targeting 761,000 people for nutrition assistance, OCHA reached 1.4 million Somali people with this assistance in 2022. OCHA also nearly reached its goal for food security, reaching 6.2 million people out of its 6.4 million target number. These successes are great examples of the dedication of humanitarian aid organizations like OCHA and their commitment to providing aid to all who need it, even if challenges present themselves along the way.

– Mohammad Samhouri
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Somalia
Amid a drought, political conflicts and extreme food insecurity, Somalia is facing a severe humanitarian crisis. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification projected that between January and March 2023, 6.4 million Somalis would endure “crisis” or worse levels of food insecurity. Of these people, 1.9 million individuals would endure “emergency” levels of food insecurity and 322,00 would endure catastrophic levels of food insecurity. Further, through July 2023, about 1.8 million Somali children will suffer acute malnourishment. These statistics are likely to worsen as the year progresses. With the forecasted continuation of a dry spell, foreign aid to Somalia is critical.

Famine, Drought and Poverty

Somalia has faced humanitarian crises since the civil war broke out in the 1990s, continuing to materialize in the famines of 2008, 2011 and 2017.

Droughts and famine have only brought Somalis deeper into crisis as the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that 260,000 Somalis died on top of expected deaths between the years 2010 and 2012 alone. The population of the country is difficult to precisely calculate due to the mass movement of Somali refugees in response to food insecurity and conflict. In 2018, Somalia stood as the world’s fifth-highest source of refugees, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

According to 2014 data, Somalia had only about 0.02 doctors for every 1,000 citizens and a hospital bed density of 0.9 beds per 1,000 people as of 2017. Infectious diseases run rampant, such as hepatitis, typhoid, malaria and polio. Along with food insecurity, Somalia faces problems with water scarcity, deforestation, water contamination and improper waste disposal. Due to political instability and poor governance, terrorism and extremism are prevalent in Somalia. According to Somalia’s Voluntary National Review report of 2022, “Nearly seven out of 10 Somalis live in poverty, the sixth-highest rate in the region. Poverty averages at 69[%] among nomadic pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and [internally displaced persons]” while urban poverty stands at 60%.

US Foreign Aid to Somalia

The U.S. Department of State’s website has reported that U.S. foreign policy in Somalia strives “to promote political and economic stability, prevent the use of Somalia as a safe haven for international terrorism and alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by years of conflict, drought, flooding and poor governance.”

Since 2006, the U.S. has given more than $3 billion in humanitarian aid and $253 million in developmental aid since 2011. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated $411 million in December 2022 to respond to the drought and prevent famine in Somalia. In total, the U.S. contributed $1.3 billion in 2022 alone.

More Action

The U.S. can still do more to aid in the Somali crisis. Stephen M. Schwartz, a foreign policy and diplomacy expert and “the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991,” recommends the United States,  in an article published in the Foreign Policy Research Institute, “apply a whole-of-government approach” to alleviate tensions and extremism, something that could strengthen relations and national security.

He also urges the U.S. to support Somalia by improving corruption, establishing an economic connection between Somalis and U.S. citizens and businesses, accelerating and expanding developmental assistance and continuing efforts for military reform, which would improve quality of life and lessen conflicts.

In November 2022, the United Nations requested 25% more financial aid for 2023 to better aid and continue to fund humanitarian operations globally, highlighting that people in Somalia are already facing hunger-induced mortality.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has also warned about the growing gap between those suffering and response, reporting that it is working to increase its food assistance to benefit 4.5 million people per month, but required “$327 million until January 2023 to continue saving lives.”

In December 2022, UNICEF appealed for $10.3 billion to help more than 173 million people globally, including 110 million children, which would cover the millions of children impacted by famine in Somalia. By increasing funding for this appeal, UNICEF can send sufficient resources to fully meet the humanitarian needs of each struggling country. UNICEF projects that it requires $272.3 million to help the 7.7 million Somalis in need through nutrition, health, education and social protection. As countries continue and increase support financially, foreign aid to Somalia can save the lives of vulnerable people in the country.

– Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Funding for Education in Somaliland
Since its declaration of independence from Somalia in 1991, Somaliland has carved out its own destiny as an autonomous region in East Africa. While no country recognizes Somaliland as a sovereign state, Somaliland has an independent government overseeing more than 3.5 million people living in the northwest of Somalia. East Africa is facing one of the worst droughts on record with crop failure and famine threatening a full-blown humanitarian crisis. The crisis most harshly affects Somali children who endure malnourishment, displacement and lack of access to education. Through funding for education in Somaliland, education access can increase.

Education in Somalia

USAID reports that Somalia has the largest out-of-school population globally — about 3 million out of 5 million school-age children are not attending school, owing in large part to the displacement that the ongoing civil war caused. This educational crisis reached a head between November 2016 to August 2017 when mass displacement prevented up to 50,000 children from attending school.

Somaliland has a disproportionately low attendance rate compared with other regions, such as neighboring Puntland. A staggering 44% of girls and 31% of boys have never attended school in Somaliland compared with 36% and 26% respectively in Puntland, a 2012 article by Peter Moyi highlights.

In recent years, the aid response from the international community has been lackluster. Funding for education in Somaliland was largely reserved for individual benefactors, such as former U.S. hedge-fund manager, Jonathan Starr, who built his own boarding school in Somaliland.

Inevitably, however, institutions like Starr’s Abaarso School of Science and Technology can accept only a select few of the nation’s brightest and offer scholarships to colleges abroad rather than those in East Africa. To increase student enrolment across the board, organizational funding is necessary to build new schools and train and employ staff.

An October 2022 article by the Somali Dispatch says, due to a lack of educational facilities, 400 students in the Saraar region were studying in the city’s market, working with impractical spaces donated by the city’s traders. Evidently, there is a keen awareness of the importance of education in much of Somaliland but a dire lack of facilities.

The Good News

Funding for education in Somaliland from larger organizations provides hope to students. A recent partnership between Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and UNICEF led to the launch of a multi-year program in July 2019 with the aim of increasing quality educational opportunities for young people in Somaliland who face crises like famine and drought. ECW allocated an initial grant of $6.7 million toward a target of $64 million for a three-year education program to provide a comprehensive, forward-thinking response.

The ECW’s overall investments in Somalia have led to the construction or renovation of 7,874 classrooms. Furthermore, 1,306 classrooms have received learning supplies to foster an environment conducive to learning. On top of this, more than 1,900 educators and administrators have received training from ECW. Of almost a quarter of a million children targeted by the scheme, the EWC has reached more than 170,000 as of June 2022.

Student enrollment has increased, not only because of the new infrastructure that ECW’s considerable funding for education in Somaliland introduced but also due to a gradual shift in local attitudes that new educators encouraged. The chairman of the Somaliland school Community Education Committee (ECE), Saeed Hassan, praised the partnership for educating local leaders on the importance of “mobilizing [parents] to enroll their children who missed school” owing to displacement.

Ultimately, the need to garner funding for education in Somaliland is as relevant now as ever. The work that the ECW and UNICEF partnership carried out is only possible with continued financial support. In November 2022, the ECW announced a $5 million First Emergency Response grant to prevent as many as 900,000 students from dropping out due to the impacts of the extreme climatic events in the region.

To ensure the brightest possible future for vulnerable youth in the region, funding for education in Somaliland must continue to grow. 

– Max Edmund
Photo: Flickr

Solar-Powered Oxygen Systems
As of November 2022, the World Bank recorded that close to 70% of  Somalia’s population lives in poverty and 90% suffer from multidimensional impoverishment. Among many other basic necessities, many cannot afford health care services that prevent or cure fatal diseases, such as pneumonia. Solar-powered oxygen systems in Somalia provide an innovative solution to address pneumonia and prevent pneumonia-related deaths in Somalia. However, before early 2021, health facilities in Somalia struggled to provide patients with critical oxygen.

Pneumonia in Somalia

Many diseases plague Somalia due to widespread poverty and a lack of access to health care, nutritious food, clean water and safe sanitation. In 2019, lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, stood as the number one disease contributing to the highest number of deaths in Somalia. Somalia has one of the world’s highest rates of child mortality and pneumonia accounts for 25% of these deaths.

Pneumonia is a severe respiratory disease impacting the lungs. Caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi, pneumonia leads to breathing difficulties. A person with pneumonia experiences pain while breathing and cannot breathe in enough oxygen. “Pneumonia is the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

However, parents can prevent pneumonia in children through vaccinations to protect against “Hib, pneumococcus, measles and whooping cough (pertussis),” the WHO highlights. To ensure the effectiveness of immunization, adequate nutrition is essential. Because Somalia is one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Somali children suffer from malnutrition and undernutrition, which puts them at risk of weakened immune systems that could make them more susceptible to acquiring pneumonia.

Apart from the importance of adequate nutrition, oxygen is needed in large quantities as a therapy to combat pneumonia. Somalia lacks oxygen systems, tanks and other essential equipment, which makes the treatment of pneumonia and pneumonia-related diseases difficult. The need for oxygen systems in the country became more apparent and urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic as many people needed these to survive.

Poor parents in Somalia struggle to access health care services for their children because of financial constraints, putting timely health care treatment out of reach. Another issue impacting health care facilities is a lack of electricity to operate essential equipment and oxygen concentrators. The introduction of solar-powered oxygen tanks in Somalia resolves this issue.

Solar-Powered Oxygen Systems

A collaboration between the WHO, the innovative nonprofit Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) and a team from the University of Alberta gave rise to an innovation that has so far saved many from pneumonia-related deaths in Somalia.

Dr. Mamunur Rahman Malik, a WHO Somalia representative, said in an interview with VOA News, “pneumonia is the deadliest disease among children under the age of five in the country. Until now, health authorities had not had access to an intervention that could reduce deaths from childhood pneumonia.”

The partners installed the solar-powered oxygen system, “the first of its kind,” in January 2021 at the Hanaano General Hospital in Dusamareb, Somalia. By harnessing the sun, which is a cost-free resource, the systems capture enough solar energy to use during the day, at night and at times when the weather is not sunny, like on cloudy days.

The solar-powered oxygen system provided critical oxygen to 171 patients at the hospital from February 2021 to October 2021. Of these patients, 163 patients (95.3%) made full recoveries.

The innovative and life-saving solar-powered oxygen systems in Somalia have reduced the cost of treatment for pneumonia and pneumonia-related diseases and can operate without an electricity supply. This medical innovation has the potential to significantly reduce the mortality rate in the country.

– Oluwagbohunmi Bajela
Photo: Flickr

Somalia’s food crisis
Somalia is facing significant consequences as a direct result of changing weather patterns. The most serious is the food crisis and severe malnutrition it faces due to droughts, poor crop yields and livestock deaths. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for immediate action as the continuing conflict and rising food and energy costs will require immense humanitarian aid in 2023. The ICRC is tackling Somalia’s food crisis by implementing several programs and methods, including teams on the ground that provide water and food, financial help, nutrition services and health care (mobile health teams).

Somalia’s Food Crisis

Many different factors have led to the food crisis in Somalia. Changing weather patterns and the resulting “worst drought in 40 years” has left more than 7 million people without adequate food, British Red Cross reports. The droughts have prevented access to food and water and led to the death of livestock that Somalians depend on for their livelihood. Another factor that has contributed to Somalia’s food crisis is the conflict.

Conflict throughout Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to the displacement of populations and a rise in food and fuel prices. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which produces a quarter of the world’s wheat and grains, is a significant contributor to the hunger crisis since Somalia relies on its exports for 90% of its wheat and grains, ICRC reports.

The rising food and energy costs are hurting communities steeped in armed conflict and violence. The ICRC has indicated that the price of food staples has risen to more than 30% in Somalia. The consequences of the food crisis in Somalia have left many exhausted as people are displaced and struggle to find necessities such as water and food. Many children are unable to attend school to fulfill their education needs.

Ultimately, as of May 2022, Somalia has seen drought affect 6.1 million people and the displacement of 760,000 people throughout the country without access to sufficient water, food and health care. An update that the ICRC provided in the month of August indicates that the internal displacement throughout Somalia due to the drought continues to rise. About 30,000 people experienced displacement in May 2022, 100,000 people in June 2022 and 83,000 people in July 2022, totaling more than a million people displaced in Somalia in 2022.

Emergency Funding For Families

One of the ways the ICRC is tackling the food crisis is by providing monthly payments of $90 to more than 150,000 families in the south and central parts of Somalia to help them purchase food and other necessities. As of the end of August 2022, the program had provided more than $13 million. The program’s outcome has seen positive results. One of the recipients, Dadir Ahmed Adan was able to use the money to open a small shop for $50 and save the rest of his money to buy food for his children after losing his livestock to the droughts.

The primary objective of this program is to help the most vulnerable people survive and minimize debt. The impact of the droughts has caused families to become displaced as they lost their livelihoods. They end up in desperate situations where they look for help from other family members or aid organizations.

Agricultural Cooperatives

Another way that the ICRC is tackling Somalia’s food crisis is by supporting agricultural cooperatives designed to help bear the brunt of changing weather patterns. The cooperatives involve training, farming tools, drought-resistant seeds and cash that is necessary for the fuel in order to irrigate. The ICRC cash assistance will continue distributing cash assistance to people in conflict-affected areas of Somalia and rehabilitating boreholes and wells. Communities will also benefit from primary health care services and mobile health clinics and support. Through this program, the ICRC has managed to help more than 150,000 families with life-saving assistance to purchase food and other necessities, following severe droughts in Somalia.

Provision Of Clean Water and Sanitation

The ICRC is also tackling Somalia’s food crisis by increasing the production and quality of water to alleviate the impact of droughts. This consists of “electromechanical quick fixes, re-drilling of boreholes, increasing the water storage by constructing elevated water tanks, water catchment systems, animal troughs and generator houses for strategic existing borehole/mechanized hand-dug well locations.”

Since the beginning of 2022, the ICRC has successfully distributed fuel and made quick fixes to 26 electro-mechanical boreholes. They completed the construction of five water reservoirs and half a dozen hand-dug wells and rainwater catchment systems. They have also constructed community water sand filters and animal troughs.

The ICRC’s success in aiding drought-stricken regions comes from their initiative and determination, along with support from local communities. The organization ensures that the most vulnerable people in Somalia have the means and access to clean water and sanitation and that these facilities have proper maintenance and improvement.

Road Ahead

The work that the ICRC conducted in response to the food crisis continues and the challenges for 2023 are ever-present. This is a year where humanitarian support is greatly necessary and the ICRC has appealed for $2.9 billion to fund its work in 2023. The ICRC expects the situation to get worse throughout the year, with children and the elderly being the most affected.

– Arijit Joshi
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Somalia
In recent years, renewable energy in Somalia has brought electricity to some of the poorest regions. “Previously, when we paid for the diesel and the worker’s wages, we couldn’t break even and sometimes we made a loss. But now we are making profits,” a Somali local farmer, Halima Abdulle Gabow, tells Deutsche Welle about the solar panels on her farm. The country started the move toward renewable energy in about 2016 and about 10% of its energy now comes from renewable sources. Renewable energy in Somalia has become a solution uniquely suitable to Somalia’s low electricity accessibility.

Civil War and Somalia’s Shattered Power Infrastructure

When the 1991 uprising threw Somalia into a lasting civil war, the nationalized energy infrastructure was completely privatized overnight without regulation. What happened immediately was a total blackout with almost no electricity accessible to the country. In 2009, when conflicting factions signed a peace treaty in congress to establish an effective coalition government, the electricity accessibility rate increased in one year from 25% to 52%. However, the situation has remained stagnant since 2009. In 2020, almost half of the population lacked access to electricity and only one-third of the rural population had access to electricity.

According to a Stimson Center research study that Abdirahman Aynte and Eugene Chen conducted, the lack of nationwide energy planning renders Somalia to regional private power grids that are disconnected, unregulated and overlapping. These mini power grids mostly rely on diesel generators and, to operate, these generators demand diesel at their dispersed power plants. Guerilla warfare, poor traffic infrastructure and the current Russo-Ukrainian war all contribute to the high cost of diesel in unstable areas. As a result, electricity prices in Somalia are extremely expensive and volatile. Depending on the region, the price can vary from $0.30 per kWh to $1.00 per kWh, starkly contrasting neighboring Ethiopia’s price of $0.06 per kWh.

Renewable Energy Suitability for Somalia

The scorching and consistent sunshine combined with ideal windy conditions means Somalia holds great renewable energy potential. The Stimson Center explains that “Somalia has the highest resource potential for onshore wind power in Africa and the country experiences 3,000 hours of sunlight per year with daily solar radiation ranging between 5-7 kWh/m2 per day, which equates to strong solar photovoltaic electricity generation capacity.” Furthermore, Somalia “could potentially produce up to 45,000 MW from wind and 2,000 MW from solar power.”

But beyond geographical reasons, renewable energy presents a solution to Somalia’s disorganized energy infrastructure and its unstable political situation. According to Aynte and Chen’s research, there are three reasons why renewable energy is suitable for Somalia.

First, because of the lack of an integrated power grid, renewable energy has a comparative advantage over diesel generators. Unlike diesel generators, solar and wind power plants do not require fuel and local electric service providers can often repair solar panels on-site. The low logistical demand gives solar energy an advantage as Somalia also does not have a comprehensive transportation infrastructure.

Second, the ease of logistical demand makes renewable electricity supply a more reliable solution in conflict areas. Extremist groups such as al-Shabab control a substantial portion of Somalia’s main supply routes and fuel transportation becomes jeopardized. As renewable energy does not rely on constant refueling, areas with renewable energy enjoy a more stable electricity supply.

Finally, the competitive nature of the electricity market attracts electrical providers to renewable energy sources. As private power grids are positioned closely one against another, often overlapping each other, the energy market of Somalia is extremely competitive. Electricity providers have to seek the most competitive business model to survive the vibrant competition. And, renewable energy is the most economical power source for the reasons listed above.

The Future of Renewable Energy in Somalia

Moving forward, renewable energy in Somalia still faces some obstacles to developing scalable electric infrastructure. According to Somalia’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources official, despite the success of renewable energy in Somalia, there is no replacement for an integrated nationwide power grid. While currently, remote areas gain their rudimentary access to electricity through mini-power grids, mini-power grids are ultimately unable to sustain the demand of future vibrant economic activities.

But, Somalia is already seeing visible gains through renewable energy initiatives. According to the World Bank, through the Somalia Business Catalytic Fund, solar company Solargen was able to begin an initiative to provide affordable solar power access to vendors, businesses and other entities in the town of Warsheikh and create more than 2,200 jobs through these businesses.

According to Aynte and Chen’s research, switching to wind turbines has successfully reduced electricity costs by almost 40% in the city of Garowe, while providing cost-free electricity to power streetlights, healthcare facilities, police stations and religious institutions.

Even though renewable energy in Somalia is still in its infancy, the significant cost benefit of renewable energy has already made an impression on impoverished Somalis.

– Peiyi Yu
Photo: Flickr