The following post is by Dr. Greg Allgood, Director of the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program at P&G and originally appears on the CSDW blog.
“Water is the issue here. It’s number one, number two, and number 3.” I listen intently as Mohammed Mamu, the manager of Save the Children’s Moyale office in Ethiopia, explains the situation here in the epicenter of the Horn of Africa famine. He’s been here for 8 months and will be here for several more to oversee the response to the drought and subsequent famine.
This is a big area and it’s extremely remote. Save the Children is working in the Somalia region of Ethiopia to provide humanitarian relief to the pastoralist communities that live here. Because the drought was so sustained, the water sources that usually never dry up became bone dry. People dug deeper and deeper into the earth of the ponds and wells but eventually not even a trickle could be found.
Mohammed explains that there are only 4 permanent water sources (the Dawa River and 3 boreholes) and that the hydrology and remoteness mean that digging deep wells doesn’t work. So, the best solution is to construct ponds to collect rain water. The deep red clay soil makes for some very turbid water and the livestock make for some highly contaminated water. It’s an area where the P&G water purification packets can have a huge impact. Mohammed enthusiastically tells us that he’s very glad to be able to provide the packets to the communities here and that they love it. They’re currently reaching about 60,000 people in this area.As an emergency response at the height of the drought, Save the Children used tanker trucks for 88 days to get water to the people so that they didn’t perish from dehydration. But it wasn’t enough for the livestock and it’s estimated that half of all the livestock in the region perished. And, that’s the average. Some communities suffered much worse.