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Almost three hours’ drive inland from Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, is the tiny, dusty village of Kalbaydh. It sits perched on a crossroads not far from the Ethiopian border.

It was once a well-off community, but for years now drought has been a way of life for people here.

“When the droughts came it was very difficult, we couldn’t find any way to sustain our way of life because we normally have livestock and we need to feed and water them,” says Barkad Aqi, the village’s 63-year-old deputy head.

“When we have enough animals we sell them, but there is no market for that because we don’t have anything to sell.”

Barkad Aqi with his granddaughter. "My clan and I decided that I should help take care of the Berked. I am very happy to do it. We are very thankful to the SRCS for the Berked rehabilitation and all that they have done so far. It has helped us a lot because now we have something to harvest water." Peter Caton/Australian Red Cross

Water is also vital for growing crops to eat, for drinking, cooking, washing and sanitation.

But while drought may be the way of life here the people of Kalbaydh are lucky because they have their own underground water reservoir. The reservoir, built almost 20 years ago, is one of only 95 in the greater Hargeisa region.

Red Cross and Red Crescent have been helping to rebuild and repair some of these reserviors, known locally as Berkeds. Many, like Kalbaydh’s, were cracked and unusable due to the high cost of upkeep that many poorer rural communities like this one simply could not afford.

Kalbaydh’s Berked needed new walls and the roof repaired. Once repairs were completed late last year Somaliland Red Crescent trucked in enough water to fill it and gave every family jerry cans, buckets, soap, detergent and water purification tablets so they could collect and use the water.

Families were also given essential water and sanitation items such as soap, detergent and jerry cans to help them harvest and clean the water. Peter Caton/Australian Red Cross

Berkeds like these are a lifeline for a community and Kalbaydh’s can hold 16,000 litres of water – enough for 90 families for an entire dry season.

Barkad is happy to have been chosen as the Berked’s safeguard. “Every morning we do the watering of the walls to protect from cracking. I safeguard and take care of the Berked so it doesn’t get spoilt again … We are very thankful to the Somaliland Red Crescent for what they have done so far.”

He hopes better times will soon come to Kalbaydh – like the days of his childhood.

“I remember it used to rain and then we used to go swimming on the Berkeds and there was plenty of milk, sorghum, wheat … It was very green. We had more than enough water, it was very different.”

Bakard and his family outside their home. Peter Caton/Australian Red Cross

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