Sebkha: The Source of Salt

World Vision's picture
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
The 56-year-old Mariem Mint Messoud

Sebkha is a suburb and urban commune of Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. It has a population of 63,000. The name of Sebkha is used in Hassaniya, the local dialect, to refer to the source of salt. The name was given to the area since its soil is highly salted. During the last heavy rainfalls in Nouakchott, the land could not absorb the water coming from the rain due to the high levels of salt, as well as the absence of a drainage system, which made the flooding and damage worse than in other areas.

During the first days of the flooding in Sebkha, an astonishing amount of water surrounded all the neighbourhoods and houses. It was almost impossible for people to access public facilities, shops, mosques and even their own homes. More than 1,300 houses were flooded, which caused a large relocation of families.

The 10 schools in Sebkha were completely inaccessible as well as several health centres. The main health centre of Sebkha was out of service for two weeks. The busiest health post in Mauritania, where an average of 20 women gives birth each day, was completely flooded.

“For the first week, we were obliged to send emergency cases to other hospitals in Nouakchott. Sometimes, we were obliged to treat very urgent cases with water surrounding us in the hospital,” says Ahmed Ould Varwa, the Doctor-in-Chief of Sebkha. “Our hospital carries out 7,000 childbirths during the year, which is the highest number in the country.”

 In these hard situation lives the 56-year-old Mariem Mint Messoud, with her 11-member family. When the floods first came, family stayed awake all night, unable to sit down because of the water all around their house. “That night, the water came in while I was sleeping with my girls and grandchildren. All of sudden, we couldn’t find a dry place to sit, let alone sleep. I was trying my best to keep our clothes and other belongings dry and safe from the water,” says Mariem. Their home, which is made of a group of huts, explains how hard the situation could be with heavy rainfalls and unexpected flooding. Mariem moved out to Dar Naim for 20 days, waiting for the water to dry out from her house. “I was forced to abandon my house and move out to the other end of Nouakchott with my girls and four grandchildren,” she says. “My two sons refused to move with us since they couldn’t leave their work of fishing and move to a very far place. They stayed here in the house until we could manage to come back home again.” Mariem adds that her mother is the owner of the house, and that they don’t have money to properly build it in a way that prevents any future floods.

World Vision has been conducting an emergency response to the floods via its Area Development Program (ADP) in Sebkha. The response has been focusing on pumping out water from public facilities like schools and health posts, and facilitating access to the most affected areas and neighbourhoods in Sebkha. The ADP conducted 600 rounds of water pumping, 300 rounds for sands backfilling, and provided 160 cartons of disinfectants in Sebkha.

Mariem was able to get back to her home 20 days later when the water was pumped out and the area was backfilled with sand and disinfected. Her family received mosquito nets, just some of 2,600 mosquito nets provided by World Vision and distributed in the area.

On my way back to the office, I have noticed that water is still surrounding many neighborhoods despite all the work that has been done to pump it out. A question then came to my mind: what if it happens again? How would be the situation of Mariem and all the vulnerable families who have been through this crisis? Unfortunately, nobody has the answer yet, especially since—at the time of this writing—rain showers are starting to fall.

News Source : Sebkha: The Source of Salt

Copy this html code to your website/blog to embed this press release.