Horn of Africa: two SDC humanitarian workers tell us about their work

Article, 19.08.2016

The international community celebrates World Humanitarian Day on 19 August. To mark the occasion, the SDC pays tribute to its own humanitarian workers. Natacha Pugin and Abdi Kunow work day in day out providing food assistance in the Horn of Africa.

A woman sits on a hospital bed with her child on her lap. Both are suffering from severe malnutrition. They are being treated in a hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia.
In 2016, the World Food Programme is helping 1.4 million people facing acute food shortages in Somalia. © WFP/Barry Came

Several hundred experts make up the SDC's Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA). Whether in Bern or abroad, as members of the SHA on assignment in the field or in reserve, these men and women work in a wide range of areas, in all countries around the world that need their help.

The Horn of Africa, for example, faces a multitude of crises, including natural disasters, conflict and extreme poverty. Somalia is the epicentre of the region’s humanitarian crisis, with the highest rates of malnutrition in the world. The UN estimates that 4.7 million people require humanitarian aid in Somalia alone, equivalent to 40% of the population.

So who are the men and women who choose to work in these challenging environments? How do they do their job and what does it entail? What motivates them? We take a closer look at the work of two SDC experts in the Greater Horn of Africa.

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© SDC

Natacha Pugin

Position: Member of the SHA, seconded to the World Food Programme (WFP) in Somalia

Place of work: Nairobi, Kenya, with occasional travel to Somalia

Length of assignment: 12 months

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© SDC

Kunow Abdi

Position: Food security programme officer, Horn of Africa, Swiss cooperation office in Kenya

Place of work: Nairobi, Kenya – Frequent travel to Horn of Africa (Northern Kenya, Somalia)

Links

SDC projects in the Greater Horn of Africa

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Horn of Africa: One Health Units for Humans, Environment, Animals and Livelihoods

01.09.2024 - 30.06.2032

The project aims at improving the well-being of targeted pastoral communities challenged with inadequate access to basic health/veterinary services and environmental conditions in Somalia, Ethiopia and Northern Kenya through integrated health service delivery for both pastoralists and their livestock. The project will contribute to stability and vulnerability’s reduction of citizens in the region, thereby reducing their displacement/migration which is in the interest of Switzerland and the international community.


Building Regional and National capacities for improved Migration Governance in the IGAD Region

01.01.2022 - 31.08.2027

The Horn of Africa is of high interest for Switzerland in terms of migration policy. Swiss support to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and its Member States will contribute to improve their migration governance capacities so as to enable the organisation to effectively implement regional, continental and global regulatory standards for the protection of refugees and vulnerable migrants in the region.


Sustainable Natural Resources Management (NRM) for Enhanced Pastoralist Food Security in the Borana Zone, Ethiopia.

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2027

Natural resources, particularly water and pasture, are among the key determinants of pastoralist livelihoods’ sustainability. The proposed Project contributes to the outcomes of the SDC’s Food Security Domain as stipulated in the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Horn of Africa. It aims at improving pastoralist food security and adaptive capacities in the lowlands of Borana Zone, Southern Ethiopia, through enhancing the sustainable management of natural resources.


City-to-City Partnership Hawassa – Lugano

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2026

This contribution supports an innovative Swiss-Ethiopian municipal twinning partnership to enhance capacity at the sub-national level to manage access to drinking water in good quantity and quality according to the Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 and 6.3 in underserved communities. The partnership will be accompanied by a research and education component, involving local and Swiss innovative university partnerships.


RAPID+ The Kenya Arid Lands Partnership for Integrated Development Plus

01.11.2021 - 31.10.2026

Pastoralist communities in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) have for a very long time adapted to the harsh environments to derive livelihoods (mainly livestock). Communities in the ASALs are facing multiple pressures of climate change, degraded natural resources and conflicts. This program supports the historically marginalised and under-developed pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya to access safe, reliable and affordable Water and manage their rangeland ecosystem sustainably.  


Locally-led Governance: the road to legitimate and effective delivery of services

01.11.2021 - 31.12.2022

The Somali population is facing considerable development and state building challenges, with Government institutions still very weak and fragile, particularly at the local level. With the UN Joint Programme for Local Governance and Decentralised Service Delivery (JPLG) as well as local peacebuilding initiatives, SDC contributes to enhanced state legitimacy, more equitable access to public service and well-being for all citizens, leading to more stability in the Horn of Africa.


Strengthening livestock sector in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) Counties of Kenya

01.10.2021 - 30.04.2024

Around 60% of the population in the arid and semi-arid lands of Northern Eastern Kenya Counties live in abject poverty and are almost entirely dependent on livestock production for their livelihoods in an environment that is characterized by droughts and resource based conflicts. This programme will support these Counties to enhance livestock production by strengthening key factors such as fodder production, animal health, etc. and by strengthening the institutions to more effectively deliver relevant services and reduce conflicts. 


Financing Durable Solutions Programme for Forcibly Displaced People (FDSI)

01.10.2021 - 31.12.2025

Through an innovative approach, Switzerland will mobilize the private sector and municipalities to contribute to durable solutions for displacement-affected communities in the Horn of Africa. Forcibly displaced persons and their host communities will benefit from enhanced self-reliance and increased socioeconomic inclusion. The initiative operationalises the strategic link between migration policy and international cooperation and further strengthens Switzerland’s profile as a pioneer in the search for durable solutions.


Direct Health Facility Financing

Zuena Hussein Ismail with her baby attended by a health worker at Makole Health Centre in Dodoma.

01.09.2021 - 30.06.2026

Together with the Tanzanian Government and development partners, Switzerland’s contribution to the reformed Health Basket Fund builds on positive results achieved so far and pursues to strengthen the health system that benefits 58 million inhabitants. Switzerland’s contribution will further expand effective decentralisation through the Direct Health Facility Financing mechanism to state and non-state primary health care providers, thus accelerating Tanzania’s progress towards universal health coverage and “Leaving no One Behind”.


Community Health Provision in Somalia

01.08.2021 - 30.04.2024

The programme provides maternal and child health services in Somalia. It works with community and district health boards to strengthen health governance at the local levels, while at the same time builds the capacities of health authorities and health workers. It also promotes innovation by incorporating research findings that inform evidence based implementation. All these elements are linked to the Swiss interest of ensuring long term sustainability in the intervention areas through strengthened service delivery at lower governance levels.


Somalia, UNFPA Support to Health, Gender and Data

01.06.2021 - 31.12.2025

This programme will work closely with health workers arid health authorities at the state and federal level to improve access and quality of health services. Focus will be on maternal and child health, and sexual and reproductive health for the youth and adults. At the same time, the programme will address gender issues around gender based violence while also working on collecting data on the general population that can be used for evidence based programming within the health sector.


Jigjiga One Health Initiative Phase 2 (JOHI2)

01.04.2021 - 31.03.2026

The Jijiga One Health Initiative aims to develop a trans-disciplinary centre of excellence on pastoralist health within the Jijiga University (Somali Region, Ethiopia). Community-based one-health research and pilot interventions, including contribution to COVID-19 prevention and response, as well as targeted policy influencing will contribute to improved health among pastoralist communities and reduce pressure for their displacement/migration, which is in the interest of Switzerland.  

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