Unexpected stories of hope

When the land turned to dust, hope arrived by text.

When a devastating drought hit Somaliland, crops failed and livestock perished. Families ran out of food and, for some of the world’s poorest people, survival seemed almost impossible. But then hope reached them in an unexpected way.

The ‘ping’ she heard in the middle of the Somaliland desert signalled the first bit of good news that Chinow Aden had received in a long while. Living in a refugee camp after drought had forced her and her six children from their home, she finally knew that they would be ok – at least for the next few months. She started to hope that life would get better.

For Chinow, the drought had been absolutely devastating. She was completely dependent on her herd of 50 animals to get by, as she explains: “It was not hugely profitable, but it was enough to sustain us with food and clothing. We were content with what we had.” But as food and water ran out, Chinow started to struggle. She wasn’t the only one.

It’s amazing what one ingenious text message from Oxfam can do.

Chinow was forced to take her family on the arduous trek to the resettlement camp at Fadhi Gaab. There, help from Oxfam supporters meant we had been able to set up an ingenious system of cash transfers via mobile phone so that people like her could buy food for their families. We’ve found through experience that – when the circumstances are right – setting up cash grants like this is the best way of relieving hunger. When food is available locally but people have become so impoverished they can’t afford to buy it, giving them cash is quicker, cheaper, more efficient and more effective than transporting huge quantities of food in from outside the affected area.

As well as getting food onto hungry people’s plates more quickly, putting money in their pockets also supports local shops and markets, and gives traders an incentive to keep food coming into the area. This is so important if we’re going to make a long-term difference to people’s lives so they can feed their families next month and next year as well as today and tomorrow.

And when people can purchase what their family needs rather than waiting for distribution of food rations that may not be suitable for them, waste is minimised and people start to feel in control of their own lives again.

Chinow remembers the moment she realised she had received one of these cash transfers. “I was sitting somewhere around here, when I heard the pinging notification sound in my mobile phone. I thought it was from an unknown number. I had a look and saw the amount of $143. I said thank God and started shouting! I asked other ladies if they had also received some money, which they all did. I appreciate it, really… it has helped us a lot.”

After converting her text message into hard cash, Chinow went into the town of Fahdi Gaab, which is around an hour’s walk from the camp. She was able to buy enough food to feed her family for a few months – a vital chink of light after such a desperate time.

We helped hungry people buy food.
We’d already taken care of the water.

It was the drought that had forced Chinow to leave her home and walk to the refugee camp at Fadhi Gaab. All over the region, the land had grown parched. Plants had withered. Pastures had turned to dust. Heartbreakingly, animals had died. Without livestock – their most valuable asset – families realised that every day was going to be a struggle just to stay alive.

Chinow suffered greatly during this time, barely managing to eat a small meal once a day. With little left to lose, but everything on the line, she was forced to take her family and search for some place where they could at least survive.

After a difficult journey, Chinow and her children were relieved to arrive at Fadhi Gaab. There, Oxfam had 16,000 litres of water waiting for her – that’s how much we’re trucking in every day to keep families like hers safe from dehydration and disease. At last, she was able to give her children clean water for drinking and washing.

“With clean water and soap, we started to look like normal people,” remembers Chinow. “We did not look like that before.”

Food. Water. Health. Hope.
Take care of these, and you can start looking to the future.

Today, Chinow doesn’t know what her family’s future holds. But thanks to the text message, they have food for the next few months. Thanks to the water at the refugee camp, they can stay clean and healthy. With these things come breathing space – and hope.

The amazing support Oxfam receives from people like you means we can keep that hope alive in Somaliland. It means we can help families survive the drought and begin to rebuild their lives. And we’ll be there to help people like Chinow find ingenious, sustainable ways to live free from poverty in the future, whatever this dry land throws at them.

From war zones to refugee camps, with Oxfam you’ll find hope in unexpected places this Christmas.

Click here to read more amazing stories of how your support keeps hope alive for people living in poverty.