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Somalia: Survival still a struggle

22-01-1998 News Release 98/03

" We gathered everything we could: pieces of sheet metal, boards, uprooted bushes and cardboard floating on the water. " Sitting in front of a makeshift hut, the mother of a large group of ragged children relates her struggle for survival during the recent flooding. The worst time was November, when the inhabitants of Marere were forced to seek refuge on dikes built along the Juba river, near where it flows into the Indian Ocean. Protected from the torrent, several thousand people built the new village in which they are still living. When the waters finally fell, they could find nothing of their former homes, even when these had been only a few hundred meters away. Everything — houses, crops and access routes — had been completely destroyed or carried off by the flood.

The villagers are surviving on fish and mangoes. But obtaining drinking water is a problem, as is sickness, in particular diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. The insects were swarming around the refuse littering the village perimeter – an ideal breeding ground – and malaria was spreading like wildfire until a team of Somali ICRC employees equipped with insecticide sprayers powered by portable generators covered the entire surface of the village with a mixture of water and aluminium sulphate. In the space of a few days, the mosquitoes virtually disappeared. But to ensure that they do not return, spraying must be carried out several times a day.

A month ago, the ICRC installed pumps connected to plastic pipes through which water is conveyed for purification and storage in large tanks set up at the centre of the village. The equipment was flown from Nairobi to the nearest airport and then transported to the dike by boat. T he system produces 6,000 litres of drinking water a day.

Finally, the Somali Red Crescent Society has set up a clinic in the village to treat the sick.