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Hope grows amid a devastating drought

25 March 2022, Impact of Our Work, Climate

Water shortages are threatening the dreams of Somali children

“There’s a drought right now and that means sometimes we don’t have enough water. When we get the water, we worry about using it too quickly,” says Nuura, a 15-year-old student in Somalia.

“I want to study to be a doctor because I want to work for my community. When I see women working as doctors, I see them as role models,” she says. 

In Somalia, where already less than 50 percent of children go to school, a combination of COVID-19, conflict and climate shocks - which increase the length and intensity of droughts like this one - has significantly increased the number of children who are out of school.

UNICEF estimates that there are now more than three million children out of school in Somalia. In its report, UNICEF proposes that building resilience to community displacement and emergencies, such as drought, are fundamental to the solution.    

“[If the school closed], I would be worried about the gap in my studies,” Nuura explains. “Last year, when the coronavirus started, the school closed for two months. During the closure I studied from home and helped with the housework. I was worried about the future and if the school would reopen.” 

A third of the Somali population is now in crisis  

Reduced rainfall, critical water shortages and drought-like conditions are pushing the number of children and adults who need critical support to 5.9 million - a third of the population and an increase of 700,000 people compared to 2020.

Nuura and her school friend Shucayb are feeling the brunt of the growing climate crisis in Somalia and if urgent action is not taken, an alarming number will face hunger, school closures due to water shortages, displacement and exploitation in 2022.

Shucayb, a 12-year-old student who also hopes to be a doctor, explains the toll of the uncertainty brought on by the drought. 

“The drought has made it difficult for the community. We only have a little bit of water left and if that dries up, then the community will have to move to another place where there is water. I’d be sad if this happens because the school would close, and I’d have no choice but to go with my family,” he says.

Children line up for water at a school in Somalia
Photo: Sacha Myers / Save the Children

Clean water helps students stay in school

Save the Children continues to prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised children and is ramping up its humanitarian response to meet children’s immediate needs. Thanks to our compassionate supporters, we’re providing water for drought-stricken communities and implementing water trucking and food programs at schools to encourage children to stay in school.

Before we got the food at school, we’d always be thirsty and hungry during class. Now we have clean water and food to eat and sometimes we go home full and don’t need lunch.


Our donors have also enabled us to develop programs that screen children for malnutrition, provide those at risk with therapeutic food, offer emergency healthcare for remote communities and deliver cash assistance to families facing economic and food stress to reduce their need to leave their homes.   

Building resilience in the face of an ongoing crisis 

Save the Children is building the resilience of communities to cope with the climate crisis, including establishing early warning systems and alternative livelihood options. We’re also training community members on the efficient management of natural resources and supporting the construction and repair of public facilities (such as boreholes) and health systems, to ensure people have improved access to services both in the long-term and during periods of crisis.

​Above all, this work is providing the next generation of community leaders in Somalia, like Nuura and Shucayb, to get the education they need to fulfill their potential. 

“I like maths because my teacher explains it really well and makes it interesting. I want to finish middle school, high school and university,” says Nuura, “it’s good to have clean water to drink and food to eat during the break times at school.”

Thanks to our generous supporters, Somali children like Nuura and Shucayb still have the opportunity to achieve their dreams, despite the devastating drought.

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