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water quality in SomaliaFor a country whose entire eastern border is an ocean, water quality in Somalia is a longstanding worry for the nation’s citizens. According to UNICEF Somalia’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) studies, of the nearly 15 million people living in Somalia, only 45 percent of them have access to clean water. Only one in four people have access to adequate sanitation facilities within a reasonable distance of their homes.

WASH has linked the lack of clean water and sanitation facilities to the rising disease rates in Somalia, most notably, the widespread prevalence of widespread waterborne diseases such as diarrhea that account for more than 20 percent of deaths of children under five. Additionally, the lack of clean water is heavily correlated to malnourishment, which over 300,000 children in Somalia are currently suffering from.

While having clean drinking water is imperative to survival, the disposal of wastewater (water used for cooking, bathing, sewage and other uses) is nearly as important to providing a safe and clean environment for Somalians to live in. Considering that the infrastructure to dispose of wastewater is severely lacking in Somalia, and the fact that most Somalians rely on rivers and rainwater for water (natural sources which are highly prone to contamination by wastewater), it is little surprise that so many Somalians lack adequate drinking water.

Estimates indicate that it would cost $1.5 billion to provide clean water to all Somalians that would not be dependent on weather patterns, droughts or possible contamination by wastewater. While by no means a small sum, it is also not an outrageous one, and one that is being decreased by efforts to improve Somalian irrigation techniques, harvesting and storing cleaner rainwater, as well as other methods to help Somalia use less water more efficiently.

These efforts, however, are only made tougher due to the twofold threat of the terrorist organization al-Shabaab, which controls much of rural Somalia, where the lack of clean water is felt most severely, and the harsh drought and famine that is currently sweeping the country. While food and water supplies are already running low, al-Shabaab puts up blockades and refuses to let aid workers assist the starving and thirsty people. In March, the Somali prime minister reported that over a hundred people had died as a result of the drought, and that number has likely only continued to worsen as concerns over the water quality in Somalia continue to linger.

Organizations such as UNICEF have stepped up to combat the water shortages by providing medical services and other necessities. Most pressingly, UNICEF was providing over 400,000 people with daily water as of early 2017. Members of the group hope and plan to increase that number fourfold and provide water vouches to well over a million people.

USAID has already committed more than $300 million towards humanitarian assistance in Somalia for 2017. Much of that money is devoted to assisting the UNICEF WASH programs and activities already underway; however, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has involved itself in an attempt to address the emergency caused by the drought through other initiatives. This assistance is key to helping those affected survive the droughts and allow time for more sustainable solutions to be put in place to improve the water quality in Somalia.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to SomaliaSomalia is experiencing the country’s worst drought in 40 years which has led to a severe famine in the worst affected areas. The drought coupled with a ban on humanitarian assistance by Islamist group Al-Shabab has caused Somalia to be left in quickly deteriorating circumstances. Instances of violence, food shortages and the spread of many drought-related diseases have negatively affected the country and caused many people to be internally displaced.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 975,000 displacements in Somalia with 82 percent, or 804,000 displacements, related to drought and its effects. The rest of the displacements are caused by the conflicts and insecurities threatening the country.

According to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), the estimated number of people in need of humanitarian aid in Somalia has decreased from 6.7 million people to 6.2 million, which shows that the situation is improving. However, localized famine, daily violent attacks and the ongoing ban set in place by Al-Shabaab, which if broken leads to brutal punishments, make it hard for aid workers to provide assistance to people still in need. 

Aid workers have been highly targeted by Al-Shabaab and many of them are victims of abductions by armed militants. Al-Shabaab imposed the ban on humanitarian aid in Somalia in July 2017. The ban mostly covers areas under his control and has forced hundreds of thousands of people to choose between death from starvation or violent punishement. Communities were told by the militant group that they would experience extreme punishment if they called or had any contact with humanitarian agencies.

Even though aid officials and international human rights organizations have provided humanitarian aid to Somalia and saved many lives, conditions within the country are still deteriorating, with almost half of the population facing starvation if no help is received in the coming months.

After the deadly truck attack on October 14, Somalia needs help more than ever. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance responded to the attack by providing $100,000 to a partner organization so that emergency medical supplies could be delivered to the 300 victims of the attack.

– Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

extreme hunger in Somalia

In March 2017, CNN spoke to Fatumata Hassan, a Somali mother struggling for her own survival and the survival of her children as Somalia faces drought, famine and terrorism – all culminating in the hunger of nearly half its population. She has walked over 100 miles to find food – an increasingly common requirement for many Somalis. Extreme hunger in Somalia is far-reaching; 3.2 million Somalis are critically food insecure, and 6.2 million Somalis need humanitarian assistance in general.

Somalia lies on the east coast of Africa, neighbored by Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Established in 1960, Somalia is a relatively young country and has often faced instability. In 1991, the ousting of the ruler Mohamed Siad Barre resulted in an ongoing civil war. In the 2000s, pirates and jihadist groups, such as Al-Shabaab, created disruption and military conflict. Finally, in 2012, Somalia reintroduced a formal parliament and the first presidential election since 1967 took place. While these measures have helped to create greater stability in Somalia, Al-Shabaab continues to cause violence within the country.

Great instability within Somalia has not helped it to cope with the drought it has been facing. For two years now, Somaliland and Puntland in northern Somalia have received below average rainfall. Now, Jubaland in the south is beginning to feel the effects of drought as well. Lack of rain causes crop failure. With little to nothing to eat for the people of Somalia, they cannot spare food to feed their livestock. Locals in Puntland estimate that pastoralists had lost 65 percent of their animals by March of 2017. Loss of livestock equates to loss of income, meat and milk to nourish children, resulting in increased poverty and extreme hunger in Somalia.

Humanitarian efforts are helping alleviate the effects of the drought. Since the beginning of 2017, $667 million has gone to humanitarian aid within the country, helping it to avoid a similar outcome to the fatal famine of 2011, in which 260,000 people perished. However, conditions in camps set up to provide aid deteriorate as the U.N. appeal for donations is only one-third of the way fulfilled.

Stability and long-term investment to build proper infrastructure – such as a proper healthcare system – are necessary for Somalia to fully recover and handle future droughts with less required aid from the international community. These needs are difficult to achieve with most of Somalia’s budget funneled toward security forces needed to fend off Al-Shabaab.

In the future, greater international support and funding could help create stability in Somalia. The World Bank and International Development Association could be instrumental in this process.

For now, donations from the international community are needed to fend off famine and rehabilitate the 6.2 million Somali people struggling to survive. UNICEF and Save the Children both have online donation pages where individuals can help save those in Somalia who are suffering from hunger.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in SomaliaDue to the prevalence of poverty in the area, there are many common diseases in Somalia. With a life expectancy of 55 years, Somalians’ quality of life suffers from ailments that people in a developed country might overlook. Whether transmitted through food, water, animals or other people, common diseases in Somalia burden local populations and may make traveling and volunteering risky. Greater efforts toward disease prevention and social development would improve accessibility to Somalians in need.

In Somalia, diarrhea and other common infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and cardiovascular diseases are the deadliest. Though not necessarily as deadly, mosquito-borne malaria has the third-largest burden on the people of Somalia when measuring in years of healthy life lost. Neonatal disorders and malnutrition are also common diseases in Somalia.

These diseases often spread due to poor sanitation, leaving many people consuming food or water contaminated with fecal matter or sewage. Diarrhea is a symptom of diseases such as typhoid fever, Hepatitis A and cholera. Other common symptoms of these diseases include high fevers, fatigue, jaundice and abdominal pain. If left untreated, mortality rates can reach up to 20 percent.

HIV/AIDS spreads through bodily fluid contamination and is commonly associated with unprotected sexual contact. Somalia has over 26,000 people living with HIV/AIDS with 51 percent of them being women. Children under five are also vulnerable to the autoimmune disease. Since HIV/AIDS is considered a taboo subject directly associated with promiscuity, the stigma surrounding it prevents further progress in disease prevention.

Tuberculosis is an airborne illness, and inhaling only a few germs can cause infection in nearby individuals. Common symptoms include cough with sputum or blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Especially in Somalia, HIV and tuberculosis go hand in hand. Statistics show that HIV-positive people are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop tuberculosis than people without HIV. Although tuberculosis is a treatable and curable disease, Somalia’s social and economic status limits access to valuable medicine.

When assessing the common diseases in Somalia, the country’s health sector requires drastic improvement to alleviate the deadly effects of illness. The most vulnerable people to disease are refugees or have been internally displaced by years of conflict and drought. Insecurity, especially prominent in central and southern Somalia, limits access to health resources. The few clinics and hospitals available cannot support the number of people who need treatment.

The most common victims of poverty and political unrest are disease-ridden, injured and malnourished. Somalia is home to some of the worst health indicators in the world, but with support at the governmental level for greater stability, the health situation could improve. Work in nutrition, sanitation and prevalence of medicine and vaccinations all contribute toward a healthier Somalia.

Allie Knofczynski

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Somalia: A Fight for Rebirth
Since being thrown into anarchy following the coup against President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia’s political terrain has seen slow and stagnated progress. Dubbed the Horn of Africa, Somalia has been attempting to rebuild itself after more than two decades of political instability and violent infighting. Human rights in Somalia are in need of vast improvements.

The country’s efforts have been widely disrupted by insurgent uprisings and terrorist groups, which have flourished in an environment of reduced economic security and weak state control. Egregious violations of human rights in Somalia have occurred from the violent uprisings as well as the inability to access adequate food, water and shelter.

In March 2017, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared Somalia’s drought a national disaster. With an estimated 43 percent of Somalians living below the poverty line, the dire situation has only been exacerbated by poor climate conditions. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) predicted that the drought had put further strain on the 6.5 million Somalis who already face resource insecurity due to years of violent conflict.

In the dry and sparse terrain of the most rural parts of Somalia, many young girls and women alike have been targets of gender-based violence as they are forced to venture further out in search of sources of food and water. UNICEF officials fear that the scope of the issue is even larger than is known, as not all cases have been reported. With gender and human rights in Somalia at continued risk, there have been fervent calls for further international engagement with the issue.

The U.S. has been quick to respond to the emergence of insurgent groups and al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. Experts have called for a multifaceted approach towards eradicating poverty and improving the record of human rights in Somalia. The Human Rights Watch amongst others have articulated that military intervention in the form of drone strikes can only be a part of a much more robust strategy, especially one that does not put innocent civilians at such high risk.

On an international level, 2017 saw the U.N. Migration Agency launch a project, assisted by one million dollars in donations by China, to have emergency relief resources reach Somalia’s most vulnerable. On a domestic level, the 9th Parliament served its full-term after two decades, with the election in 2016 resulting in 17 percent youth and 26 percent women MPs, which marked a significant step forward for Somalia.

Although there is much left to be done, with an internationally sponsored government intact and multi-faceted relief projects on their way, there appears to be more hope for stability than there has been in decades for human rights in Somalia.

Sydney Nam

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Somalia
Somalia, a country in eastern Africa, is on the brink of catastrophic famine. More than half of the population of Somalia needs some sort of help regarding food. Camps providing aid are set up around the country, but even there the situation of hunger in Somalia is dire.

Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), a nonprofit organization based in Minnesota, decided to find a way to help. This organization operates on a volunteer basis to provide assistance in the battle against world hunger. Volunteers sign up for a shift to come in and pack food into bags for however long they choose. Each bag packs six meals made up of a formula researched to provide the most nutritional value for a starving person. They are all vegetarian and halal certified.

FMSC sends the food they package to at least 60 countries worldwide, constantly working to solve the problem of world hunger. But besides their normal volunteer work, the organization creates mass packing events in various locations. From June 2 through June 5, FMSC hosted their largest packing event in the history of the organization in St. Paul, Minnesota. Partnering with Love Somalia, there were over 15,000 volunteers working in 2.5-hour shifts. The volunteers packed and sent an amazing 4.9 million meals to Somalia in order to assist during the famine. It’s a start to addressing the overwhelming hunger in Somalia that equates to more than six million people who need aid.

Other major packing events have gone towards relief in Haiti, the organization’s largest recipient. In 2015, FMSC sent 78 million meals to Haiti and sends even more after hurricanes.

The United Nations writes that a “massive increase in humanitarian assistance is urgently needed to avert a famine,” especially one that resembles the famine Somalia experienced in 2011, where more than 250,000 people died of starvation. While there is still a long way to go, Feed My Starving Children has begun taking steps to help.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Flickr

Cholera Crisis in Somalia
For the vast majority of developing countries, poor water quality and waterborne disease are the biggest contributors to mortality rates. For the people of Somalia, this reality has only been made more evident in their recent cholera crisis.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease.  It has the potential to kill its victims within hours if left untreated. Not only is the disease extremely virulent and easy to contract, but it also kills at unprecedented speed and is often difficult to detect.

The transmission of cholera gets often linked to a lack of access to clean water sources and sanitation facilities. This type of environment is particularly characteristic of the peri-urban slums of Somalia where open defecation is commonplace, and populations get crowded together.

The cholera crisis in Somalia stems from an endemic food deficiency that has plagued the country for years and has placed them on the brink of famine. Drought and extreme food insecurity have forced Somalian farmers into crowded urban areas putting an even greater strain on the limited clean water sources and contributing to the poor hygiene problem. After three consecutive years of failed rains, the current drought has resulted in more than 600 deaths. Most of these were related to acute watery diarrhea or cholera.

A humanitarian coordinator notes of the crisis: “Open defecation not only puts women’s dignity and security at risk, but it also poses a serious health hazard.” In addition to providing vaccines and treatment for existing cases of cholera, it is imperative that Somalians acknowledge the dangers of poor hygiene habits on their health and prioritize finding alternatives.

CARE Somalia is making an impact on the crisis through water, sanitation and hygiene efforts to prevent the onset of the disease. Alongside the Ministry of Health in Somalia, they reached over 250,000 people and potentially save the lives of thousands.

Another integral part of the organization’s humanitarian aid is the distribution of water purification tablets. The tablets can treat large volumes of water with chlorine and disinfect within 30 minutes, killing off bacteria that could transmit typhoid or cholera in a community’s water supply.

Since 2011, CARE invested in water infrastructure and hygiene efforts to curb another famine and improve the cholera crisis in Somalia. Although progress has been made, it is vital to keep the momentum on the project and continue prioritizing infectious disease prevention in poor slums worldwide.

Sarah Coiro

Photo: Flickr

Help people in Somalia
Somalia is in a pre-famine state, experiencing severe drought and conflict from radical groups. Both events are causing a major food crisis. A quarter of Somalia’s population is in crisis, while over 300,000 children are suffering from malnutrition. This being said, there are plenty of solutions to help people in Somalia including providing nutritional support, access to safe water supply and building prevention and treatment centers.

One way to help people in Somalia is by giving nutritional support. Children and mothers are living with multiple nutritional deprivations. Delivering food assistance will aid and prevent them from being affected by the drought and conflict. Some organizations provide agricultural assistance and advancement or nutritional substitutes.

Providing access to safe water supplies is another way to help people in Somalia. Building wells in communities across Somalia enables families to settle one less worry and focus on other responsibilities such as work or school. Although there have been about 500 wells built around Somalia, the risk of contracting diseases from these water supplies is still high.

Building prevention and treatment centers in communities will help to fight these diseases in Somalia. Cholera has spread greatly across Somalia and is in need of an improved treatment plan. Health organizations are responding to such diseases and gathering to build appropriate facilities across the country.

Although there are many things that can be done on the ground, there is always a way to help from home. The simplest and effective way to help people in Somalia is to donate. Many of these acts are possible through donations. There are many campaigns standing by Somalia and its recovery.

One example of an organization to donate to is Love Army for Somalia, a supply aid campaign. Recently, the campaign has expanded into an effective one, allowing people to pair up and give monthly donations to different families in villages suffering deeply from the drought. Back on the ground, these donations are immediately sent to those families to purchase their own necessities instead of getting the packages by the middlemen.

There are many solutions as to how to help people in Somalia. From acting on the ground to donating to a variety of campaigns, every action helps. Millions are aiding Somalia during this famine. This sets the example of the impact that can be made by developing countries.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

Education in Somalia
In the coastal African country of Somalia, a long history of famine and war has made it difficult for the school system to flourish. Civil conflict, an underdeveloped government and natural disasters have all served to stunt the growth of education in Somalia.

But hope is not lost—both government and nonprofit organizations are developing methods to increase access to quality schools. Below are eight facts about the country’s education system and current efforts to improve the landscape.

  1. Few children have the opportunity to attend school in Somalia, with a 30 percent average primary school enrollment rate that dips to 18 percent in secluded regions. Due to severe poverty and the nomadic culture that pervades more than half of the population, sending children to traditional schools is impractical and impossible for many families.
  2. Vast gender disparity also plagues the education system. Less than half of all Somali students are girls, and just one-quarter of women between 15 and 24 are literate, versus 37.8 percent of men.
  3. Ninety-eight percent of Somali girls undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) at some point in their lives, 80 percent between ages five and nine. Girls who attend school, though, are less likely to face the procedure.
  4. Recognizing this correlation, Somali activist Hawa Aden Mohamed established the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD) in the 1990s to create increased access to education in Somalia, especially for girls. The organization has since provided primary schooling to 800 girls and an “un-formal” education to 1,600 adolescent women.
  5. Education itself works as an agent to prevent girls from experiencing FGM. In addition, the GECPD teaches its students about the dangers of FGM and encourages them to break the cycle within their own families, as nearly two-thirds of Somali women and girls approve of the practice of FGM.
  6. Thanks to the GECPD’s work, the girls’ school enrollment rate has risen to 40 percent in the northeast region of the country, while the national average is just 24.6 percent.
  7. Raising these numbers is vital, as 70 percent of the population is under 30 years old. In addition, youth unemployment swells at 67 percent. With a better education system and ample opportunities for both boys and girls, Somalia stands a great chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and building a successful economy.
  8. Earlier this year, an education summit was held in Garowe, where The Ministry of Education in Puntland discussed education policy and curriculum with the federal government. Federal Minister of Education Abdirahman Dahir Osman announced that committees will begin working on issues within the education system and that Egypt has contributed funding to the cause. The involved organizations will soon release more information on the summit’s conclusions.

While the current circumstances may look bleak, the future holds a wealth of possibilities. With the continued support of the government and organizations such as the GECPD, education in Somalia is on track to turn around.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr


An outbreak of cholera in Somalia has resulted in a total of 28,408 cholera cases and 548 deaths thus far. In April 2017 alone, 2,745 cases of cholera were reported in Somalia by the Ministry of Health. From April 10 to 16, 28 cholera-related deaths were reported across 50 districts. The situation has been exacerbated by the worst drought experienced in decades, which has coincided with the cholera outbreak in Somalia.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease, which, if left untreated, can lead to death. It is caused by the bacterium Vibro cholerae. Consumption of contaminated food and water is the main cause of the disease. Malnourished children under the age of five are especially vulnerable.

Somalia is in the midst of a severe drought due to poor rainfall and a general lack of water. It has killed livestock and crops, leaving 6.2 of 12.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The drought has greatly worsened the outbreak of cholera in Somalia.

Somalia’s humanitarian crisis is a combination of political conflict, food insecurity, displacement of people and limited health care. More than five million people are at risk of being affected by waterborne diseases, and three million people face food insecurity. The death rate has reached 14.1 percent among Somalis affected with cholera in Middle Juba and 5.1 percent in Bakool. Five hundred thousand Somalians have been internally displaced in search of water.

Dr. Adinnasir Abubakar, a cholera expert for the World Health Organization (WHO) emergencies program noted: “Ever since the drying up of the Shabelle and Juba rivers, people have been forced to move out and seek water in unfamiliar places.” The two rivers are Somalia’s perennial streams.

The Ministry of Health is working with the WHO to respond to this outbreak and implement preventive measures against cholera in Somalia. There have been integrated emergency responses in the Mogadishu, Bay and Gedo regions. Sixty health workers were trained by the Ministry of Health in cholera case management, surveillance, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and risk communications.

The first oral cholera vaccination campaign began on April 18th and is set up to target 450,000 people over one year of age to fight cholera in Somalia. There are warnings by medical staff that the number of ill patients has exceeded hospital capacity in affected regions.

Cholera is a treatable and preventable disease. To prevent cholera deaths in Somalia, oral rehydration, antibiotics and intravenous feeding are needed. Somalia’s cholera outbreak is a wake-up call for the better implementation of water and sanitation infrastructure, promotion of hygiene practices and emergency aid need.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr