Somaliland town gets new water supply system
23 May 2005 - Residents of Gebiley, a town of 20,000, about 45 km from Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland (also known as Northwest Somalia) have more reason to smile following the launch of a UNICEF-supported water project.
The Gebiley Water System like others that UNICEF has constructed throughout Somalia is combating the problem of lack of access to clean drinking water, waterborne diseases, poor sanitation and hygiene and ensuring access for the most vulnerable and poor members of communities.
In Somalia the problem of lack of access to clean water was compounded by the destruction and looting of water supply installations during the civil war, the continuing conflict, lack of maintenance and erratic rainfall. The result is that an estimated 65 per cent of the population in Somalia does not have reliable access to safe water throughout the year. In addition, less than 50 per cent of Somalis live in households with sanitary means of disposing excreta.
Prior to UNICEF constructing the Gebiley Water Supply System, only 5% of the population had access to clean drinking water from the existing system that was managed by the Gebiley Municipality. The rest of the population depended upon traditional and unsanitary sinkholes -natural holes in rocky areas where limited amounts of usually unsanitary water are retained as a result of rainfall - and trucked water from dugouts along the dry river beds about 12km from the town. Most of the population could not afford the cost of trucked water and the average daily consumption of water per person was about eight litres per day, far below the minimum 20 litres per person that is recommended by the World Health Organization.
In 2004 UNICEF started to implement the Gebiley Water Project in cooperation with other organizations and the Somaliland administration. COOPI ( an Italian NGO) drilled a new borewell and UNICEF provided equipment, supplies and funding to the local municipality to put in place other structures. UNICEF also supported installation of a 250,000 litre water storage tank and laying of over 12,000 metres of pipeline network and 10 public water kiosks. The old borewell was refurbished and new equipment installed.
With these and other connections, the water system is able to reach about 90% of the town’s population. More than 100 households have been connected with piped water in their yards. In addition, UNICEF has been carrying out hygiene and sanitation awareness campaigns to ensure that the new water alleviates water related sicknesses.
The net result is that in Gebiley, water consumption has gone up to more than 20 litres per person daily. Among the beneficiaries of the water supply system are two schools whose students have access to water for drinking and for hand washing and sanitation facilities.
It is these achievements that UNICEF staff, residents of Gebiley and the local administration were celebrating as they converged in the town on World Water Day 2005 to mark the commissioning of the project. The Day is marked annually on 22 March.
Besides the residents, UNICEF and the local administration, local NGOs and women’s groups that were involved in the rehabilitation of hand-washing and sanitation facilities and creating awareness on the benefits to health, sanitation and hygiene of the project had also cause to celebrate.
Currently the Gebiley Water Authority is managing the water supply and is planning to handover its operation and management to a private operator. UNICEF will continue to support the authority through capacity-building.
During 2004, UNICEF created, restored or upgraded 33 rural bore wells and 137 shallow wells in Somalia. Alone these benefited more than 190,000 people.For these and many more whom UNICEF and its partners have benefited, access to drinking water has become a happy reality and no longer a dream.
For more information contact: Pranab Shah, UNICEF Somalia Water and Environmental Sanitation Project Officer, Northwest Somalia ('Somaliland') and Northeast Somalia ('Puntland'), email: firstname.lastname@example.org.