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‘We survived Cyclone Sagar’

How the Start Fund supported people affected by Cyclone Sagar in Djibouti

  • by Amrina Rana
  • 05 Oct 18

Deka and her 3 children. During the storm she moved her children to a safer place at a nearby community centre. Start Fund alert 235 (tropical storm). Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC

Case study

Start Network member, The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) was awarded Start funds to provide a rapid response to families who had been affected by Cyclone Sagar in Djibouti. The cyclone hit the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa between 16th- 20th May 2018. According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), it is estimated 830,000 people had been affected by the cyclone and 290,000 had been temporarily displaced.


What are The NRC doing?

  • They are helping the most affected people rehabilitate their damaged homes: Supported by the Start Fund, they have been providing cash to people affected by the cyclone so that they can buy construction materials like cement, wood, nails, iron sheets, paint and metal bars.
  • Djibouti city’s low-income neighbourhoods are made up by a wide variety of shelters, from iron sheeting, plastic sheeting, scrap metal to stone houses. To address individual needs, the NRC adopted a flexible approach in the reconstruction. The city dwellers have the option to choose the reconstruction materials that they need as well as to negotiate affordable labour fees.
  • People affected were given cash vouchers so that they can buy the food and household items they need the most.
  • The risk of water-borne infections remains high due to the presence of stagnant water. The NRC team in Djibouti is constructing 60 latrines in Damerjog township to help mitigate the risk of cholera.

Case study: Deka Ahmed

Twenty-eight-year-old Deka Ahmed and her three children are among the many residents of the capital of Djibouti who suffered damages and loss of property in the cyclone that ruined livelihoods and contaminated waters across the country.

The family is rebuilding their lives with smart aid from The NRC.

“I was born here in Djibouti city. Sometimes we experience heavy rainfall, but I have never experienced such a destructive storm like Cyclone Sagar,”

Deka says.


Saving her children first

On 20th May, rough winds and torrential rains swept across Deka’s neighbourhood, flooding her kitchen and living room. The previous day she had hurriedly moved her family to a nearby school following flood warnings from the city’s administration.

“Sensing danger, I moved the children to a nearby community centre, but went back inside the house during the storm to protect my things from being swept away or stolen,”

Cyclone Sagar caught many by surprise. While the government launched a quick appeal for assistance, aid agencies had to raise emergency funds to assist people who lost their homes.

Deka received cash support from The NRC as part of the project activated by the Start Fund.


A freedom of choice

Traditionally, people affected by crises have been given food and other household items. With cash vouchers, Deka can buy exactly what her family needs, and in turn put money into local markets.

“People can trade in the vouchers over the counter and receive the food and cleaning items of their pick. The voucher option provides flexibility for Deka to choose what she needs most,”

explains Meskelu Adane, NRC’s shelter coordinator for the cyclone emergency response in Djibouti.

Verification of recipient’s identity through thumb printing. This ensures that there are no false representations or mistaken identity when cash vouchers are issued. Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC.

Before Deka can use her vouchers, she must register her thumbprint. This way, no one else can use her voucher.

The first cash voucher she receives is for hygiene and sanitation products like soap, scouring powder, scrubbing pads or other items that she can choose from the shops. She has also received a voucher from the World Food Programme to help her purchase food. The total amount of cash voucher support amounts to 28,000 Djiboutian franc, an equivalent to $157 US dollars.

Deka waits anxiously as a shop vendor confirms and registers her cash voucher before she buys the food. Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC.

Food on the table

Deka is relieved that she will have food for her family in the coming days.

She has bought cooking oil, pasta, green peas, rice and margarine. She will use her other voucher to buy washing detergent and sleeping mats.

“Today I am buying the food because we need to eat dinner. Later I will go the supermarket and buy a blanket and sleeping mat,”

With cash support, the family will soon be able to move back into their house. Deka can buy construction materials to rebuild the damaged parts of her house. Raging floodwater weakened the main door and flooded the house. While her children have returned to their house, she still needs to replace the door, cement the floor as well as install barriers to keep water from flowing in.

“The cash vouchers to communities affected by the cyclone have boosted their recovery and given them the power to rebuild their homes and assure their survival,”

says NRC’s Meskelu Adane.

“It feels good to afford a meal for the children. I see new respect and appreciation in their eyes when I provide for them like a parent should,

“Parenting is a very big responsibility. It is not about issuing instructions to your children all the time. You also have to show that you are capable of preserving the dignity of the home. You have to be committed to their welfare during good times and bad times.”

syas Deka. 

Mustafa spending time with his aunt Halima, who is also a neighbour at Quartier Cinq of Djibouti city. He wants to become a teacher when he finishes school. Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC.

Deka’s three children are all in school, and she plans to keep it that way.

To earn a living, Deka buys beef from the local meat distributor and slices it into small pieces which she sells at retail prices. She earns an average of three US dollars a week from this venture, which is not enough to make ends meet.

The cash vouchers are vital to keep her children in school and food on the table.

“Cash support is a flexible alternative that has given the people of Djibouti room to plan their home reconstruction together with other priorities. In the end, they have full ownership of the results. It is a win for all,”

says Eric Ndayishimiye, NRC’s area manager in Djibouti.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP), Caritas Djibouti and the National Secretariat in Charge of Social Affairs (SEAS) in their cyclone response.

“The partnership has enhanced a faster, integrated and coordinated response on the ground,”

Eric Ndayishimiye, NRC’s Area Manager in Djibouti.


This case study was first published on on 20th September 2018.

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  • by Amrina Rana