I first visited Somaliland; a self-declared independent state in the north-eastern region of war-torn Somalia around a year ago when the world’s gaze was momentarily fixed on East Africa after famine was declared in South Sudan, and parts of Northern Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia were teetering on the brink. I was there as part of the Red Cross response to the ongoing drought and food crisis that has ravaged large swathes of the continent.
At that time some 25 million people were facing starvation and disease, today that number is down to 15.2 million, due in part to a huge humanitarian intervention that managed to prevent large-scale famine from being declared.
Having just come back from Somaliland for the second time, I am reminded of the incredible women I met. Women who are not only doing their best to survive the harsh conditions they are facing after four consecutive years of failed rains, but are also going above and beyond to help their families and broader communities.
Women like Hamdella. At 22 years old, she works as a nutritional nurse for the Somaliland Red Crescent Mobile Health Clinics. These life-saving operations - their simplicity, yet their efficiency never cease to amaze me.
Staffed with a doctor, a midwife and a nurse, they pile into their 4WD with their medications and equipment and tear across the parched earth. They immunise children, screen and treat them for malnutrition, provide medicine for the sick and care for pregnant and lactating women who would otherwise have no access to healthcare services.
“People are very happy when they see us because they don’t have health facilities, I am very excited about working here and I think Red Crescent helps people in health, which is very important” Hamdella tells me.