When you hear of an impending emergency and your work as a humanitarian aid worker is about saving lives, alleviate suffering and uphold dignity, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? For many, the first reaction is surely; how can we respond? The second question might be; is it within our scope and mandate, or is there another agency better suited that could be alerted? If the second question is answered with a “Yes” and your agency is able to respond, surely the next question will be: How can we do this in the most efficient and effective way possible?
When ZOA was alerted by the local authorities in Filtu woreda of Somali region about a looming drought, caused by a broken down piping system in combination with a large influx of IDPs utilizing the only water source in the area, ZOA was prompted to act. As one of the few agencies in this remote location, people look to ZOA for meeting their needs in times of emergencies. ZOA was determined to not let them down. When ZOA was alerted, women walked for up to ten hours to fetch muddy and unsafe water from the open Filtu pond, where both humans and animals share the water source.
It was heart breaking to see images of a mother of ten digging a meter deep whole to fill her 20 liter jerry can with murky water to share with her whole household.
One can just imagine the diseases that follows with this. Amongst the mothers looking for water was Ifrah Adishikur- 24 years old and a mother of three girls. She looks back on this harsh time: ‘’The situation was very hard. The Filtu pond dried up and we had to search in the bush or in towns for water sources.’’
Act swiftly to prevent a disaster
To prevent the water emergency to become a full-fledged disaster, ZOA decided to respond in the fastest way possible. ZOA was alerted on January 15th, 2019 by the local authorities and by January 17th, ZOA had managed to allocate internal ZOA funding for starting up emergency water trucking to meet the urgent water needs for people – both hosts and IDPs – in Filtu woreda. The needs grew larger and larger, in the pace that various water dried up, and in close collaboration with the WASH cluster and local authorities ZOA identified 19 sites (kebeles and sub-kebeles) where people had a distance of 40 kilometers or more to find some source of water.
To meet the huge needs of more than 26,000 people that were left with no water in their locations, ZOA approached IRC to get OFDA funding through the Rapid Response Mechanism support.
42 days of water trucking
Through the generous support of USAID/OFDA, ZOA was able to provide a total of 6,220 m3 liter of water which was delivered to 26,277 (16,194 women and 10,083 men) individual beneficiaries for a period of 42 days, starting from March 9th to April 19th 2019. Ifrah Adishikur explains that ZOA intervention started just in time: ‘’Thankfully the water trucking started just as the pond dried up. We could use it for drinking, washing clothes and for preparing food. Sometimes I fetched 40 liters per day, sometimes 60 liters. For my family of five people it was sufficient. The quality of the water differed, sometimes it tasted good, sometimes it was salty. We had no problems at the fetching site, no outsiders were coming here as every site had it’s own water distribution point. Eventually, the rains will fill up the pond and we will go back to fetch water from there when the water trucking stops.’’
This project was a collaboration of five organisations: