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Somalia, March 2015: Providing safe and reliable water in schools and health centres

UNICEF Somalia/2015/Makundi
Thirteen-year-old Hamsa Abdi Mohamed, washes his face at newly installed water point outside his classroom at Dhaboolaq Primary, southwest of Somaliland.

By Athanas Makundi

March 2015, DHABOLAQ Somaliland – It is midday and the classes are over at Dhabolaq Primary School, southwest Somaliland. A few weeks ago, at a time like now, 13--year-old Hamsa Abdi Mohamed would be running home to go to fetch water down at the river, about five kilometers away.

But today, he and his friends are playing football, with no hurry to go home. Panting in the scorching heat, Hamsa dashes to drink water at the newly installed water point outside his classroom.

“It’s like a dream, I can’t believe we have water this close,” says Hamsa who used to miss classes two or three times a week to fetch water for his family. “ We use this water for drinking and hand washing, we clean our classrooms, the toilets and sometimes water the plants,” he explains.

Previously a deep open well was the only source of water for some 200 households in Dhabolaq village.

“The well served as the village’s lifeline, but it was also a death trap for children,” says Mohamed Mohamoud Ahmed, the deputy principal of Dhabolaq Primary School. “Five children have fallen into the well on different occasions. Two of them died instantly while three sustained legs injuries.”

Through UNICEF intervention a solar powered water system was installed in Dhabolaq village. The water can be pumped from an underground well to elevated storage tank with a capacity of 25,000 litres. A twin pipeline then takes the water to the school and to a place with taps where people can collect enough safe water to meet their household needs.

“The actual number of children enrolled in this school is 120 pupils but only about 45 pupils used to attend school,” explains Mr. Mohamed. “This is changing now, with water close by, we see more children coming to school regularly.”

Fifteen-year old Safia Abdullahi changed schools because her former school didn’t not have water and clean sanitation facilities. She says the boys used to laugh at girls, when they saw them carrying water to the toilet. As result many girls would shy away and stay absent from school.

“Water is a priority for girls,” says Safia Abdullahi, now in grade 7 at Ish/Madar Primary School. “ I like this school because there is water installed in the toilets, we can wash hands, drink safe water and maintain good heath hygiene.“

UNICEF Somalia/2015/Makundi
© UNICEF Somalia/2015/Makundi
Pupils drink and wash their faces at newly installed water point at Dhaboolaq Primary, southwest of Somaliland.

Ish/Madar Primary is crowded. The school has 1,250 pupils, which is more than its normal capacity of 1,000 pupils. Aden Mohamed, the Headmaster says every parent wants to bring their children here because they have excellent water facilities and toilets.

“Initially, it was very challenging to run this school without water,” says Mr. Aden,“But when UNICEF supported the installation of the water and built the toilets, it encouraged school attendance especially girls - this has also increased the enrollment and improved the quality of education.”

There is a strong link between children’s health and well-being and their access to safe water, use of proper sanitation and their hygiene behavior. UNICEF has prioritized the installation of WASH facilities in schools and the promotion of hygiene education.

“The idea is to increase access to safe water, encourage use of sanitation facilities and eventually change the unhygienic behavior practices of the communities,” says Elicad Elly Nyabeeya, UNICEF WASH Specialist based in Hargeisa.

“The challenge is the maintenance, but for every water point we provide, we are training village water committee on how to operate and maintain the water supply system.”

A similar focus is also being put to improve WASH in health facilities such the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Centres in Somaliland and other regions of Somalia

Hamda Omen, a midwife at Jaamac Hassan Shire, MCH in Hargeisa, says water is huge challenge for health facility which has around 100 women giving birth each month.

“Imagine operating a maternity without water,” she says. “It discourages the women, in the meantime, we order water from a truck every five days but the problem is when there is delay. It’s a nightmare.”

UNICEF hopes with the support of donors, it will enhance the access to adequate safe water and improve hygiene and sanitation for communities and schools across Somalia, where 70 percent of the entire population does not have access to safe water.

Somali Children benefiting from the WASH programme in their schools

© UNICEFSomalia/2015/Makundi

Nimco Hassan, Grade 7, Age 14 years, at Ish/Madar Primary School, Hargeisa Somaliland

“ Water is everything for us. It is difficult to concentrate in class without water in school. I want to become the Minister for Water and Natural Resources and ensure every school has water.”

© UNICEFSomalia/2015/Makundi

Safia Abdullahi, Grade 8, Age 15 years, at Ish/Madar Primary School, Hargeisa Somaliland

“I feel lucky to be in this school, because there is water to drink, to wash our hands, to clean the classroom and toilets. The only problem here is that the boys bully us. I wish they would build a girl friendly space, (recreational facility) where girls could rest during break, play or have some class discussions. Growing up as girl in Somalia is challenging, for example, I have to wake up early to prepare breakfast for everyone and after school I have to cook dinner so I have less time to do my homework. “

© UNICEFSomalia/2015/Makundi

Nimaan Hussein, Grade 6, Age 15 years, at Ish/Madar Primary School, Hargeisa Somaliland

“Education for me is the key to life and it builds our future. When I complete school, I want to become a doctor and treat sick people. Health is a big issue in Somalia; there are so many diseases that affect our people. We need more doctors in our country to treat the sick.

“Growing up here is challenging because even though I’m attending school, I don’t know whether I’ll get a chance to go for higher education and become a doctor. I don’t think my family can afford it.”

© UNICEFSomalia/2015/Makundi

Khadar Abdillahi , Grade 7, Age 16 years, at Ish/Madar Primary School, Hargeisa Somaliland

“We are very lucky to have this water in the school. Some children don’t have this opportunity, I can imagine the conditions of toilets in schools without water, and where the children have nowhere to wash their hands or drink water.

“When you look around people are very poor, some live in the camps and they don’t have anything to eat. I want to become the President of Somaliland to build the economy of the country and create employment.

© UNICEFSomalia/2015/Makundi

Abdi Ahmed, Grade 5, Age 12 years at Dhabolaq Primary School, southwest Somaliland

“We used to have to remain without food because there was no water to cook it. I used to miss school to fetch water in the river. The water is very dirty. I have seen many children get sick with diahorrea because of drinking the dirty water. But now, I’m happy that water is here, we can wash our hands, we can bathe and drink it. Now I go to school regularly.

“The problem here is that even though we have water now, we don’t have toilets and people defecate in the open. I wish that could have toilets at home, like we have in school because I know our health is at risk if there are not toilets.”



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