efe-epaQardho, Somalia

These young women have fought to overcome the barriers of inequality that prevail in Somalia and fulfill their dream: to be veterinarians.

Now their mission is to save livestock, a vital source of food and income for the Somali population, from an impending death due to the long drought.

Khadra Mohamed is 22 years old and a member of one of the 120 teams that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has deployed throughout the country to vaccinate around 270,000 animals every day and prevent them from dying, due to diseases caused by drought.

The animals are sick because they cannot drink water and their immune system is low, Khadra Mohamed told EFE, warning that if they do not receive treatment, they will soon die.

Although it has rained in recent weeks, the situation remains critical and half of the Somali population, more than 6 million people, continues to face food insecurity, so the threat of declaring a famine remains possible.

With a veterinary gun, Khadra Mohamed vaccinates all the goats that line up in a makeshift stable in a village near Qardho, in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland (northeast), where shepherds wait attentively, hoping that their animals survive.

Some goats try to resist with deafening screams, but Khadra, along with the rest of the team, acts firmly and holds them while they are getting vaccinations against parasites.

The young woman noted that cattle account for the pillar of the country's economy, which is why she always wanted to study veterinary medicine, to try to improve the health of animals.

The livestock sector is the largest contributor to Somalia's livelihoods, with more than 65 percent of the population involved in some way in the industry, according to FAO data.

With this emergency intervention, the UN agency aims to help pastoral communities to keep goats, camels, sheep and donkeys, alive and productive, key to the food security for the population.

In another village in Dkudkub, Jamira Mohamed Ali begins to prepare the injections and hopes that this vaccination program will strengthen the health of the animals to make them more resistant to the long months without rain.

Jamira told EFE that she has seen many animals die in this area, at least 500, and insisted that it is not only a question of keeping livestock alive, but also of saving the lives of people, especially in regions like this, where grazing is the only economic activity.

With the loss of animals, the community is losing all its resources, she insists, as livestock is the vital source of food and income in this Horn of Africa country.

Some shepherds are surprised to see a woman in a white coat doing a job that has only been done by men.

The two veterinarians confess that sometimes it is not easy to perform their work in a traditionally macho society, but with their courage they are breaking stereotypes.

That is why the presence of 23 women in these FAO teams deployed all over the country is not only helping to save animals, but also combating gender inequalities.

All of them, when they have reached university, have demonstrated that they can overcome obstacles that socially prevented them from progressing, such as female genital mutilation, child marriage or gender violence.

Another obstacle is the poverty which has been rooted for decades in a country like Somalia, and causes the population to survive with scarce economic resources, so if one of the family gets to go to college, it is usually the man of the house.

For them, being part of the FAO teams in their country is a triumph and a responsibility: saving animals from the drought and helping the Somali economy also depends on them.

By Jessica Martorell