Health Cluster Leads Cross-cluster Collaboration to Deliver Integrated Package of Services Among Underserved Communities – Somalia

July 17, 2022 – In 2021, Somalia barely had time to take its eyes off the COVID-19 pandemic when the ongoing severe drought crept in. As a result, many Somali communities, over 40% of whom are known to live a rural and nomadic lifestyle, lost their livestock and crops.

To provide a multifaceted response to the ongoing drought, the Somalia Health Group has worked hand in hand with international and national health agencies in the country.

Delivering a joint response with partners led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Health Group convened regular meetings with partners, including federal and state ministries of health, where the Organization shared updates on the drought situation and anticipated impacts on public health. These meetings provided partners with a platform to discuss their drought response activities in addition to gaps and challenges.

The Health Group has also participated in cross-group platforms. Led by the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the cross-stakeholder response to the drought included the rebuilding of the Drought Operations Coordination Centre. The Health Group is playing a key role in coordinating the overall health response in the country and working hand in hand with the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and food groups for programmatic integrations.

Group Health partners have so far benefited from 2 rounds of Somalia Humanitarian Fund allocations totaling approximately US$9 million to respond to the drought, targeting the most affected populations. These allocations have benefited from inter-cluster cooperation, with most of the funds channeled into integrated health, food and WASH projects.

Visiting the areas most affected by drought

The Health Group participated in cross-group caravan missions to various drought-affected areas to assess the health situation, identify gaps and opportunities for support. Areas visited include Bardhere, Luuq and Elwak in Gedo region, Garowe, Hargeisa and Jowhar, among other areas severely affected by drought. From these missions, the Cluster observed the high prevalence of waterborne disease outbreaks, mainly due to the lack of sufficient clean water and sanitation services.

Suspected measles cases were also observed in most areas, including camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), where families complained of rashes and high-grade symptoms. The team noted a large number of people suffering from malnutrition, which is known to be a key contributing factor to disease susceptibility, especially among children under 5.

Mental health and gender-based violence risks during drought Mental health and psychosocial support services remain a key gap in IDP camps, with children showing signs of trauma and depression, as highlighted by the Cluster. The emotional impact of changes in family and community life appears to have affected the lives of children in the camps at an alarming rate. Interaction with women in the camps revealed high incidences of gender-based violence, largely attributed to the lack of shelter as most newly arrived women and girls sleep outside.

As a result of these missions and observations made, the allocation of funds has been better prioritized to reach the most vulnerable population in these severely affected areas. An integrated approach to drought response has been found to be the most effective and efficient way to deliver aid. These caravan missions have also provided an opportunity to monitor partners’ health-related interventions. However, as agencies struggle to scale up effective drought response, the needs of underserved communities are clearly outstripping available services.

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