Somaliland: Protecting children’s education during drought
- In Somaliland, five consecutive failed rainy seasons have led to many people being on the move in search of food and water—with increasing numbers of children out of school.
- During emergencies, schools can offer a platform for an integrated emergency response for children, offering them education, nutrition, safe water and sanitation.
- The GPE-funded program, which includes a school feeding project, supports 300 schools to help ensure children in drought-affected areas return to—and remain in—school.
This story was written in collaboration with Save the Children Somaliland.
School principal Khadar and his students at Booldid Primary School, Marodi Jeh region, experienced firsthand the devastating effects of one of the worst droughts in decades in Somaliland.
Loss of livelihoods compromised the capacity of parents and caregivers to send their children to school, as uniforms, school materials and food became unaffordable. Children who could go to school struggled to concentrate and learn due to hunger and dehydration.
“Students encountered many challenges,” says Khadar. “This is a low-income community of livestock herders and small-scale farmers. When the drought hit hard, some people moved to distant places in search of food and pasture, while some [who remained] were not able to come to school.”
Some families—like that of Hamda*, a 13-year-old student at Booldid Primary School—managed to remain in their villages, but not without great difficulty. Hamda continued to attend school, but had to travel far as well as take on additional chores at home to help her family.
Many families abandoned their homes and embarked on a perilous journey in search of water, food and pasture for themselves and their animals. This migration has had a significant impact on pastoralist children, who traditionally have limited access to education and require targeted support and specialized services.
The impact of the drought on children’s education
About 60% of Somaliland’s population depend either directly or indirectly on livestock and livestock products for their livelihoods.
In January 2022, the Somaliland National Drought Committee estimated that over 800,000 people were experiencing acute food insecurity and water shortages due to consecutive failed rainy seasons.
Food and water scarcity combined with devastation of livelihoods, migration and increased child malnutrition has had damaging effects on children’s education.
As of January 2022, 74 primary schools across the drought-affected areas were closed and 5,966 school children affected.
Where schools remained open, children stopped attending on a regular basis, dropping out altogether in the most seriously affected areas. The persistent lack of access to food and water pushed them away from their classrooms and placed their development at risk.
The longer children are out of school, the more likely they will never return. Displaced children in particular often do not return to school, or are unable to re-enroll in their new location due to lack of services or classroom overcrowding. This can significantly impact their future, limiting their opportunities and potential income.
Schools can be a safe haven
In times of emergencies, such as drought, schools can be a safe haven and provide a platform for an integrated emergency response for children. By prioritizing children’s continued access to education, the impact of crises like drought on their learning and development can be mitigated.
Children out of school are exposed to heightened risks, such as sexual violence, child labor and early marriage. Drought-affected children also suffer nutritionally and psychologically and need targeted support.
GPE, through a US$5.73 million grant implemented by Save the Children, is supporting 49,150 children in 300 primary schools in the country’s six main regions—Awdal, Marodi Jeh, Sahil, Togdher, Sool and Sanaag—aiming to provide urgent and prioritized support to schools in rural communities devastated by the drought.
The main focus of the GPE-supported Education in Emergency Drought Response Program is to ensure children return to school, by fostering a safe and protective learning environment and through the provision of school meals, learning and teaching materials, and clean water and sanitation facilities.
School feeding to support children in crisis
School feeding has been shown to have a significant impact on the retention of emergency-affected children in schools. The GPE-funded program focused on distributing and procuring nutritious food items from local suppliers to 17,125 children, focusing on 149 schools identified to be the most vulnerable with the most children at risk of dropping out.
In addition, 100 schools received cooking equipment including pots, ladles, steel plates and cups. The school feeding service is built on the principles of real partnership, with local communities providing the cooks and serving the food to students.
To complement these activities, the GPE-funded program supported trainings on school health and nutrition for 96 community education committees and teachers. These interventions serve to enhance the children's well-being in the schools affected by droughts and improve the wider community’s health and hygiene practices.
Interventions for a safe learning environment
Along with school feeding, the GPE program funded water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions including distributing potable water to 179 schools, rehabilitating 36 school latrines, constructing 29 new latrines, and rehabilitating water storage facilities including roof catchment harvesting in 60 schools.
Additionally, 37,379 vulnerable students received learning materials, 24,600 reading materials were distributed and 96 classrooms were rehabilitated.
With GPE’s support, all of these interventions are helping ensure that vulnerable girls and boys affected by the drought in Somaliland have continued access to a safe, supportive and protective learning environment.
*Name has been changed for privacy protection reasons.