UNICEF focus on improving access to water to reduce burden on women and children
By Bismarck Swangin
Dheenta, Somaliland March 2014 – Less than two weeks after giving birth to her fourth child, Ibba Aideed Farah, restarted her daily routine walking two kilometres to the shallow well in her village for water.
“I always felt pains in my back and neck,” said Ms Aideed. “Sometimes I could only manage to bring a 20-litre jerry can of water, which is not enough for our family of six.”
The contaminated open shallow well was the only source of water for both people and animals among the 200 households of Dheenta village, about 30 kilometres from Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa.
Sometimes, Ms Aideed took along her young daughters to help fetch the water meaning the children were either late at school or missed out altogether.
These all changed in 2010 when UNICEF installed a solar powered water system in Dheenta village. It brought clean, safe drinking water closer to the villagers and provided enough to meet the needs of households.
“Water is life, all our domestic work; cooking, washing and cleaning all depend on water,” said Ms Aideed. She says that she now uses more than six times the amount she used before the water point was installed.
Forty year old Ardo Ahmedulla Omar had a similar experience.
“Every woman in the village was in danger of developing back and neck problems because of carrying water on their backs for two kilometres every day,’ she said. She used to make the trip at least four times in a day to fetch water to run her tea shop as well as meet her family’s needs.
“Water is a priority. We used to drink contaminated water and suffered several sicknesses but we have now seen a decline in diarrhoea and skin infections,” she said.
In Dheenta village UNICEF installed 20 solar panels of 150 Watts each on a high ground to power a submersible pump which lifts underground water into a storage tank with a capacity of 125,000 litres. A pipeline then takes the water to a kiosk within the community where people can collect water in jerry cans.
According to the results of the most recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) carried out in 2011, only 42% of households in Somaliland have access to clean drinking water.
Through UNICEF, the European Union (EU) is funding the improvement of water service delivery in four towns in Somaliland to meet the needs of the increasing urban populations.
The towns of Borama, Burao, Erigavu and Tog Wajaale will benefit through the strengthening of sustainable management of water services under a sound legal framework that stipulates the roles of the public and private sectors, and sets out parameters for water tariffs.
During an event to mark World Water Day on March 22, residents and local authorities in Tog Wajaale town emphasised the acute shortage of water in the area. The community here relies on a dirty pool of water where both animals and human beings compete for water.
“The EU project is the only hope for Tog Wajaale,” said Dr. Abdirizak Jama Nuur the Director General of the Somaliland Ministry of Water Resources. “This is an important project for the people of Somaliland and especially those in the four towns.”
The project is one of several efforts by UNICEF with the support of donors to enhance access to adequate safe drinking water and improve hygiene and sanitation for communities across Somalia where 70 percent of the entire population do not have access to safe water.