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Reference : V-P-SO-E-00264
Date : 08/10/2007
Country/Region : SOMALIA
Caption : Lower Shabelle region, Jowhar town. Sand bags provided by ICRC to reinforce the dykes.
Photographer : YAZDI, Pedram
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : ICRC Somalia: preventing disasters

"If the dike breaks the city centre will be completely under water and all roads to the town will be cut", says Abdinur a resident of Jowhar, the capital of the Middle Shabelle region of Somalia. Houses are located just few meters from the Shabelle river, and are actually lower than the swollen river on the other side of a earth dike.

Water is already seeping through the bottom of the dike which threatens to collapse at anytime. It would require substantial repairs and not just reinforcement. "Nobody is leaving so far, we are all afraid of looting", adds Abdinur.

25 kilometres downriver from the town, the water has also reached a critical level. But after three seasons of flooding, the farmers have managed to reinforce the dikes with sand bags distributed by the ICRC.

In the village of Baadley, children play near the river or fish. Women are busy collecting water or preparing food. Men are in the fields, sowing maize. A few months ago, the population was living on the edge of disaster. Three consecutive seasons of flooding, had left this farming village and others along the river without food.

For the third consecutive season, they had insufficient harvest. With little to eat, and nothing to exchange for essential items, a simple fishing hook was above their means. "With 4 children, I was completely desperate. My cooking pot was empty. We had lost most of our harvest and in the end we didn't even have seeds to plant," says Mariel Hadj Abas.

In late September the ICRC in Somalia distributed seeds, together with food rations for two months (including 48 kg of beans and 24 l of oil per family), to 26,750 poor farmers and displaced families who have access to land. This operation improved food security for 160,750 people facing economic hardship. In addition, fishing kits and farming tools were distributed to villagers along the rivers.

These villages are far from the conflict and the instability in the region has left them extremely vulnerable to climatic disasters such as flood and drought. Roads are inexistent and the villages lack essential services. ICRC relief delegate Daniel Gagnon is visiting the villages by boat to verify the efficiency of the earlier distributions.

"The residents could be cut off easily with no one to help them. A famine situation, usually accompanied by disease could devastate an entire region. We help the population reinforce their coping mechanisms to mitigate hardship and suffering," explains Gagnon.

Mariel Hadj's husband, Abdulahi, sowed the seeds distributed by the ICRC. "The storm is not over yet. We have food, seeds and my sons are fishing everyday," says Abdullahi, "but the level of the river is still very high and a few villages could not sow because their fields are completely flooded. They are using sand bags to contain the flood". The ICRC has already provided 110,000 sandbags for flood prevention in Lower and Middle Shabelle, Gedo and Lower and Middle Juba regions.

ICRC's intervention in Somalia addresses the needs of victims affected by protracted armed conflict and compounded by extreme climatic conditions. Its' emergency programmes include food or essential household items for affected populations, ad hoc medical supplies and surgical services for first aid posts behind frontlines and access to suitable drinking water.

In addition to these emergency programmes, the ICRC continues to carry out other activities, as it has done since 1977, such as: medical support to 23 Somali Red Crescent clinics in central and southern regions and to three hospitals in Mogadishu, construction and rehabilitation of water structures, agricultural and livelihood projects and re-establishment of family links through tracing services and Red Cross messages.

Present in Somalia since 1977, the ICRC, works in close cooperation with the Somali Red Crescent and remains a key provider of emergency aid to victims of armed conflict and natural disasters in the country.
Original material : digital
Resolution : 2592x3872
Orientation : portrait
Colour/B&W : colour