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Catholic Entity Transforming Lives in Somalia Through “Christmas gifts of love” Initiative

Fartun (39) collecting water with other women and girls from her village Credit: Trócaire

The overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, Trócaire, is providing clean and safe drinking water in the drought-stricken Somalia in an initiative the agency has dubbed as “Christmas gifts of love”.

In a Tuesday, November 16 report, Trócaire officials highlight the challenges women and girls in Somalia’s Burdhubo town in the Southern Gedo face in search for water for their families.

“Women and girls in Burdhubo, Southern Gedo, are forced to abandon their education to trek long distances in searing heat to source water for their families. A gift of water this Christmas will change their lives – and the lives of hundreds of communities in developing countries,” Trócaire officials say.

Under the leadership of Trócaire, with funds from the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) channeled through Catholic Relief Services (CRS), a new solar-powered shallow well was constructed in Burdhubo district.

The water well project that was implemented by the Somalia Health, Protection and Nutrition (SHArPEN II) serves a population of more than 120,000.

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“Thanks to the solar-powered shallow well, an estimated 400 households (almost 3,000 people) can now access safe and clean water. The well has also helped improve the health of children and their families, and has resulted in a decrease in the incidences of water-borne diseases, including diarrhea, as well as malnutrition in under-five children,” Trócaire officials say.

Fartun Ali Qodah, a 39-year-old mother of 10 is a beneficiary of the water well project constructed under the leadership of Trócaire. 

Together with her children, the mother of 10 had to trek for over 3 kilometres daily in search for safe water, the journey that was faced with hunger and risk of being attacked.

“Thanks to the construction of a new solar-powered shallow well, the lives of Fartun and her girls have been dramatically changed. The well is now piping safe water to their village and other communities in Burdhubo,” Trócaire leadership notes.

“But most concerning was the fact that the girls were missing school as their main task of the day was to find safe water for the family,” Trócaire leadership says.

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The report further indicates that the closest source of water is River Juba, which serves the 120,000 population and gets infected by “animal waste” thus posing danger to the people.

“The river water gets infected by animal waste, insects, and dirt during the dry season. The colour, odour and appearance of the water changes and our children often suffer from diarrhea,” Fartun says.

She adds, “I am very grateful that we now have clean water from this well, thanks to Trócaire and the donors who funded this project. Now we can fetch clean water in less than 15 minutes because we are not going far to look for it, and our girls now have time to go to school.”

“However, other communities are not as fortunate while they wait for the project to be expanded,” Fartun says, and adds, “As a mother, I feel sad to see girls put at risk and not attending school as the boys do. The lack of safe water here significantly affected the education of many girls.”

Launched Monday, November 15, the “Christmas Gifts of Love” seeks to help vulnerable communities combat the devastating impacts of climate change, COVID-19, and conflict.

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During the launch, Trócaire CEO, Caoimhe de Barra, said, “Currently an estimated 235 million people around the world – 47 times the population of Ireland – need humanitarian assistance and we are relying on the public more than ever this Christmas to support our work.”

“We have gifts that will ensure communities have clean, fresh water to drink and wash with, as well as providing irrigation systems that will help families grow fruits, grains and vegetables,” Ms. de Barra said.

She added, “We have other gifts that will provide seeds and tools to allow struggling families to feed themselves, and bees that will produce honey that can be sold to earn an income. All of these gifts give families the opportunity to look forward to a brighter future where they are not dependent on aid.”

In the report, the development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland notes that humanitarian agencies have over the last two decades worked to help restore Somalia’s collapsed water system, adding, “More needs to be done. In 2022, 7.7 million Somalians are expected to require humanitarian assistance.”

“Continued support is needed to supply clean and safe water to the entire Burdhubo district, which hosts vulnerable internally displaced people and host communities who don’t have access to clean or safe drinking water,” the leadership of Trócaire says.

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