Safe water remains scarce in Somalia, contributing to disease and malnutrition
By Abdul-Kadir Abdulle and Eva Gilliam
World Water Day, commemorated each year on 22 March, focuses attention on the importance of freshwater to sustainable development. World Water Day 2012 emphasizes the importance of water to global food security.
MOGADISHU, Somalia, 21 March 2012 – A line of women and children curves around the wall of a defunct hospital, now home to an Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) in the Hodan District of Mogadishu.
At the entrance to the centre, which is run by UNICEF partner and local NGO SAACID , a water tap, basin and soap sit invitingly. These are life-saving resources for the families queuing outside the centre, many of whom have been displaced by violence or food insecurity.
Lack of water devastated Somalia last year. It was the worst drought in over two decades, leading to famine in several areas of the south. While the situation has improved, 2.34 million people still require life-saving assistance.
The water-nutrition connection
Safe water is still one of the most difficult commodities to come by in Somalia, despite the above-average rains during the last rainy season. The scarcity of this essential resource continues to challenge the health of all Somalis. Women and children are hit particularly hard, especially in areas experiencing continued food insecurity and conflict.
This is the fourth time she has visited this OTP to follow-up on the health of her malnourished child. The centre receives between 350 and 400 children per day, and has a staff of 20. They are supported by various organizations, including UNICEF, focusing on basic nutritional and medical care. Their work includes raising awareness about the importance of hand-washing and other good hygiene practices to protect against illness and malnutrition.
Education is key
For SAACID, getting the word out about hygiene means getting the word out about water. Safe water makes all the difference, but it is not easy to access in makeshift camps housing tens of thousands of people.