The ongoing drought in Somalia is causing a humanitarian crisis, with millions of people being displaced and in dire need of water, food, and other basic necessities. This crisis is also as a result of prolonged conflicts, climatic shocks, and weak governance systems, which have made it difficult for children to access safe and inclusive education. Despite education being essential, it remains a challenge in crisis-stricken communities like Somalia, with millions of school-aged children not receiving an education. The lack of education exposes children to the risk of child labour, child marriage, recruitment by armed groups and other child protection risks. The education system in Somalia also faces many challenges, including long distances to school, safety concerns, traditional norms that prioritize boys’ education, a shortage of trained teachers, particularly female teachers, inadequate access to water and sanitation facilities, and a lack of teaching and learning resources.
The story of Halima Mohamed
Halima Mohamed Aden (Not her real name) is a 14-year-old girl living in the Banadir region of Somalia. She lives with her parents and siblings at Xaqdhowr IDP camp, in Kahda district. She is a student at Mudan Primary school, currently in grade four. Before moving to the Banadir region, her family lived in a small rural town called Alafuto, located a few kilometers from Qoryoley district in the Lower Shabelle region. Halima has faced many challenges in her life, including the loss of her father at the age of 7 due to illness. In her community, it is common for the younger brother of the deceased to inherit and marry the widow, as was the case with Halima’s family.
Halima’s family being pastoralists depended on livestock as their source of livelihood. However, due to the drought, all their livestock perished as a result of the lack of pasture and water. According to the WFP Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa Situational Report, at least 9.2 million livestock deaths occurred in the drought-affected areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia in 2022. Having lost all their livelihood sources, the family migrated to Mogadishu hoping to get help from well-wishers or humanitarian organizations and settled in the Xaqdhowr IDP camp.
At the camp, the family survived with the small amount of money earned by Halima’s mother, Mrs. Bisharo Abdi, from menial jobs in Mogadishu. Despite the difficult circumstances, Halima’s parents were able to enroll her in a community-owned school in the Xaqdhowr IDP camp. And with the help of a donation from a well-wisher, they were able to afford a few school supplies.
Menstrual Hygiene Management for Halima Mohammed Amin
At 14 years old, Halima experienced her first period at home. She informed her mother, and she told her that menstruation is a normal occurrence for adolescent girls and women too and she should not be scared or worried. Although her mother’s words comforted her, Halima had no knowledge on appropriate menstrual hygiene management.
Like many girls and women in IDP camps, Halima frequently lacked access to menstrual hygiene products. Even when they are available, the high cost of sanitary products often makes them unaffordable due to poverty. The stigma, shame, fear, and superstitions associated with menstruation also has a significant impact on the lives of vulnerable women and girls in IDP camps, who often resort to unsanitary methods of management which is harmful to their reproductive health.
Without access to adequate menstrual hygiene products, Halima was forced to miss school during her menses, affecting her performance and causing her to withdraw from her friends due to embarrassment. Her class teacher, Ms. Shukri Mohamud, noticed a decline in Halima’s concentration and participation in class, and reported that she was no longer the happy student she once knew.
Supporting Education in Emergencies (EiE)
In May 2022, Nomadic Assistance for Peace and Development (NAPAD) partnered with Diakonie Katastropenhilfe (DKH) to support access to education for children affected by the drought, particularly girls who are internally displaced in Somalia who face great challenges in accessing education.
One of the barriers to education that NAPAD and DKH are addressing is the lack of adequate access to menstrual hygiene products. This is being addressed by providing menstrual hygiene kits and creating awareness about menstrual health and hygiene. This helps girls learn how to effectively and hygienically manage and breaks down societal myths and taboos surrounding menstruation. The provision of these kits also helps preserve the dignity of schoolgirls, as well as maintaining their self-esteem, and confidence in the classroom. Halima is one of 200 adolescent girls who are benefitting from this initiative. Additionally, the project also facilitated the construction of gender-segregated twin latrines in the five supported IDP schools, providing privacy for both girls and boys while using the facilities.
“I no longer miss school because of my menstrual cycle as I have sanitary products and knowledge of effective menstrual hygiene management,” says Halima.“I am confident that I will complete my education and become a gynecologist and help my community,” she continues happily.
To improve access to water, NAPAD has constructed a 5000-liter storage water tank and installed pipework to supply clean water for use by the schools. NAPAD is also implementing a water subsidy program in the targeted IDP camps. As a result, 420 households of the learners are benefitting from the water voucher program, including Halima’s family who now have access to clean water every day for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. To further promote household hygiene, these vulnerable households are provided with hygiene kits. NAPAD is also sponsoring the school fees payment of 840 pupils which is meant to reduce the burden of fees payment from the parents. Halima is a beneficiary of this initiative, and this ensures that she remains in school.
Furthermore, the students are provided with nutrient-rich meals at schools, including breakfast and hot lunches, which are important to ensure that the learners are healthy and ready to learn, without being affected by hunger. The school feeding program also enhances enrolment and retention of children at school. Additionally, students and teachers are provided with teaching and learning resources and the teachers are supported with incentives and intensive trainings on pedagogical skills, TICC package, classroom management, multi-grade teaching, and hygiene promotion.
For the first time, Halima says she has access to most of the things she needs to succeed in her education, and she appreciates NAPAD and her partners for not only supporting her access quality education but also supporting her family.