When ZOA started in June 2017 its Emergency Response Program in Dolo Ado – Somali region, people and livestock are on the brink of starvation due to ongoing drought. Nature’s hostility to life and livelihood is unscrupulous, and we wonder if our interventions, most importantly water trucking and livestock feed, will ever be able to meet the needs of the suffering.
In DHIBI, one of the drought-ravaged villages, lives 57-year-old Mr. Abdi and his family. He is father of 12 children and husband to two wives. Both wives live in separate houses but depend on their shared husband’s meagre number of livestock, Mr. Abdi’s main source of income.
One sun baked afternoon, while selecting participants for the project, we meet Mrs Dhaqan, one of his wives. She just arrives home from a long torturous journey, fetching shrubs to feed her dehydrated cows, calves and goats who try to find some shelter in the shade. She has seven children to take care of. Four of them cling on to her as she prepares the only meal of the day for the family.
We inform her of our purpose of the visit. “Your support is a God’s gift to us, thanks be to God” she whispered, gesturing us to a seat in her hut. The extent of poverty in the household is heart breaking. The relentless drought has forced this pastoralist household to survive merely on hope. Few days after our visit, we start our livestock feed distribution and water trucking programme.
Some weeks later we pay a visit to see for ourselves whether any of our interventions were worth it after all. On our early morning arrival Mr. Abdi welcomes us in warmly. “Oh, you have returned!” he says with visible joy. We are served tea – a drink we didn’t receive on three occasions we were here before. “In fact, I planned to invite you for a special meal to eat one of the cows.” he chuckles. “You see those white cows standing in the shade?” Mr Abdi pauses to make sure we spot the right cows. “Because of your effort, they are alive today! Both cows would have died were it not for your water rationing and wheat bran. And the story is similar across other villages. You know, drought is ever present and the support you give strengthens us. It gives us hope to know that there are people who care about others.” After a sip of his tea he continues. “The time you were listing us, I was out to borrow money since the livestock was too meagre to fetch a good price. On my return, Mrs. Dhaqan, informed me of your program. The money I had raised was immediately used to buy food for our children.”
Excited to see that our help at last mattered we bid them goodbye. Mrs. Khadija last words: “We were thirsty and hungry but your assistance restored us. May God reward you abundantly!”
ZOA livelihood officer