Published: 23 August 2011
The devastating drought afflicting the people of the Horn of Africa has highlighted the critical need to respond to early warning and ensure community water facilities are well maintained and fully operational when disaster strikes.
As World Water Week gets underway in Stockholm, the International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling on governments and donors to do more to equip vulnerable communities with both the knowledge and the technical capabilities to maintain vital water facilities such as wells and pumps, which provide a critical life-line when water-related emergencies take hold.
“It’s no use for aid agencies to install facilities such as wells and pumps and then leave without ensuring people have the knowledge and resources to maintain them” said IFRC Under Secretary-General Matthias Schmale “With climate change having an increasing impact on the levels of drought and flooding in the region, early warning and water preparedness are key to survival for millions of people.”
Many communities now suffering from the effects of the severe drought in the affected countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, have no, or only sporadic, access to functioning water supplies, highlighting the need for increased investment in the operation and maintenance of facilities for drought and other emergencies.
“By just providing access to spare parts or local skilled workers, such as plumbers, lives can be saved and livelihoods protected, “said Schmale “ Drought is nothing new and will unfortunately continue to afflict Africa and other parts of the world, so it’s important we think long-term and prepare the local people for what lies ahead. There is no excuse for communities with broken or damaged water sources to suffer from water shortages and we are calling for governments and donors to do more to prevent these scenarios in the future. ”
Early warning and early action are key aspects of the IFRC’s long-term approach to mitigating the impact of disasters on people and places. But early warning systems are ineffective if warning signs and alerts go unheeded. “The IFRC launched a number of appeals for the Horn of Africa based on the early warning systems we had put in place, “added Schmale. “It was clear that the drought was coming, but the general response was too late.”
The Kenyan Red Cross Society (KRCS) is currently working on projects to increase the number of boreholes and shallow wells in communities impacted by the region’s worst drought in decades and extending water pipelines to ensure as many people as possible have regular access to clean and safe drinking water.