To build clean water sources and reduce the spread of preventable diseases through health education campaigns for displaced communities in Galkayo, Somalia.
Somalia has been without a central government, or peace, since 1991. Decades of war and violence have led to the internal displacement of over 1 million Somali people. This influx, combined with devastating flood and drought cycles, has created a humanitarian emergency that some UN officials refer to as the worst in the world. One in eight children die before their fifth birthday, and one in three are chronically malnourished. Just 30% of children go to school.
Public health is closely linked to the current humanitarian crisis. Insufficient access to potable water and sanitation, particularly for displaced persons, forces families to rely on unsafe systems. Rain water passes through exposed waste and contaminates surface drinking water sources. Poorly constructed latrines flood into wells used for all potable and household water needs. Moreover, Relief International has observed that Somali families are unaware of the connections between hygiene and health. The result: a rapid spread of deadly communicable diseases, such as cholera and acute watery diarrhea—which can kill a child under the age of 5.
Achievements thusfar in the “Improving Hygiene for Healthier Lives” project focused on procurement of essential water treatment supplies and initial community mobilization. RI has convened key stakeholders, including local and district authorities, who are prepared to facilitate project implementation and community education. RI has been careful to engage both the Governor and Mayor (North Galkayo) and the District Commissioner (South Galkayo) so as not to exclude or exacerbate existing clan tensions. Although the community is aware of and ready for this project, more sensitivity and mobilization is required – in particular for IDP communities.
During the reporting period, RI Headquarters-based Senior Program Officer was in-country to manage and oversee the Somalia program, as well as engage regional and local authorities and stakeholders to ensure commencement of community sensitization / mobilization.
CHALLENGES and SOLUTIONS
Program challenges experienced result from the intense security situation across all of Puntland, in particular affecting Bossaso, Galkayo, and Garowe, where a significant presence of humanitarian aid agencies exists. NGO staff are increasingly viewed as targets for kidnappings by Somali abductors, who view their hostages as leverage that could pay-out a handsome ransom. As a result, RI has been forced to restrict considerably movement to protect staff safety, while advancing project activities as much as is possible. Through the holiday period (late December 2007 to early January 2008), RI’s movement was completely halted as security conditions across Puntland worsened.
To ensure staff safety, RI has taken more time to carefully plan movement and activities. Taking a low profile, RI is still seeking to take a community-based approach wherein the community largely has ownership of all activities.