Public-Private Partnership provides safe water to drought-affected populations in Somalia
By Iman Morooka
QARDHO [Gardo], Somalia, 29 April 2011: People of Qardho town suffered from shortage of water until a few years ago when an extensive water system was introduced. It was common for people to go on for days without water supply and to walk long distances under the scorching sun to fetch water. Back then, incidence of acute watery diarrhea cases among children was frequent.
Mr. Abdelghafar Mohamed, Governor of Karkaar region where Qardho is located, says: “Water was stored in leaking tanks, and the boreholes were managed by untrained staff who didn’t know what to do whenever there was a problem. People had to walk long distances to go to the source of water at the boreholes. Women who had to walk long distances were exposed to different sorts of risks.”
In response, UNICEF introduced the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme in Qardho in 2006, with funding from the European Union and the Swiss National Committee for UNICEF, for improved water provision and effective management of the water system.
As part of the project, the hardware component of the system was strengthened and expanded through rehabilitation of two boreholes, construction of an elevated water steel tank and installation of a 15-km new pipeline connecting 5 new water kiosks around the town with the water source.
Hodman Water Company came forward to take on the responsibility of running the system, in close collaboration with the Puntland State Agency for Water, Energy and Natural Resources and the local community under the framework of PPP. Through the partnership, the different and complementary roles of local community, government and private sector were strengthened, with UNICEF acting as facilitator to the process.
“Now the system is fixed, technicians know how to maintain and troubleshoot when necessary.” said Governor Mohamed. “There are now kiosks that have brought water closer to residents, in addition to 1400 household pipe water connections. Children’s health has improved as a result, demonstrated in the significant reduction in the number of acute watery diarrhea cases”.
Nimo Siddique, mother of five, who received the pipe connection in her home two years ago, said that before having the water tap, she used to buy water from vendors who traveled with their water trucks around the town.
“It was a hassle because I had to go to the market, negotiate with the water vendors to come to my home with the tanker. I used to spend about $20 a month on water, and sometimes three to five days would go by without having water because the tankers were not available. Now I have water at my home all the time, and I know it’s safe because I know where it comes from not like before when I didn’t know where the water was stored”.
Ms Siddique’s expenditure on water has halved since she received the pipe connection which now provides safe drinking water to the eight members in her household.
The impact of Qardho’s water system transcends the town’s boundaries, says the Mayor of Qardho, Mr. Said Hogaan. “People come from far away seeking water and in search for grazing areas for their livestock, so we serve both urban and rural populations. Tankers that get filled up here travel as far as 100 km to deliver water to regions that don’t have enough water. Definitely, this demand does put a lot of pressure on our system”.
Drought-affected surrounding rural communities, where traditional water collection facilities (Berkads) have dried up following the failure of October-December rains, now depend heavily on this reliable water source.
According to Shivanarain Singh, WASH Specialist with UNICEF, the existence of the system has helped alleviate the suffering of people during the ongoing drought. “If this wasn’t in place, we would have seen more livestock death, and would have meant people had to travel longer distances where they can find water” he said.
For vulnerable displaced people, Hodman Water Company is providing fee-free water rations near one of the boreholes in town. Falis Abdi, widow and mother of two, came from Mogadishu to escape the fighting in the capital. “I clean houses to pay for rent and support my children but I barely make enough money so I have to come here to get free water. The company has done a really good job to provide water for us like this.”
UNICEF is currently supporting 12 water systems managed under the PPP approach across Somalia, serving an estimated 500,000 people.
“The PPP approach in Somalia has been successful because by bringing together all stakeholders both private and public, it ensures ownership of the project by everyone, and makes sustainability of water supply possible.” said Mr. Singh.
“While so far the focus of PPP has been on urban systems, our next step is to expand the system to rural areas. This will reduce geographical disparity, as now boreholes tend to be located along the main roads while remote villages don’t get the coverage. Reliable and sustainable water supply in rural areas will also reduce the pressure now facing the urban systems.”