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Somalia, 6 September 2015: “Water is Life” – new water system transforms village life

By Jamal Abdi Sarman

© UNICEF Somalia/2015/Sarman
Khadar Abdi Jibril and his daughter fetch water from the newly installed taps in their Somaliland village.

6 September 2015, DOOXAGUBAN, Somaliland – Our journey from the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, to see the water project at the village 90 kilometres north, takes us across several dry river beds. It’s no surprise to learn that the village is called Dooxaguban which means dry river or valley in Somali.

At the entrance to the village we see a large elevated water-tank, and close by, a father helping his daughter fetch water from an adjacent tap.

The father introduces himself as Khadar Abdi Jibril and tells me that the giant water-tank is providing him and his community with the most precious commodity they’ve ever had - water. He explains that they used to rely on the generosity of local farmers up to two kilometres down the hill. The farmers would give them some water after they had finished pumping water for their farms.

“Now, thanks to the project, you can see that the water has been brought to our doorstep,” a grateful Khadar explains.

The water tank was constructed as part of a UNICEF WASH project for the village and was funded by Swedish National Committee for UNICEF. It is a storage facility for the water that serves over two thousand people in the village and another two thousand in the surrounding area. The water comes from an enclosed well, that was rehabilitated by UNICEF, and is pumped to the tank, using solar power.

“The water is available to the villages free of charge and is safe to drink. Unlike water from farmers, which was often contaminated and made us sick”, Khadar says. Lack of safe water is a key contributor to the high rates of childhood illness and disease in Somalia, in particular diarrhoea, which is closely associated with malnutrition, and is the cause of nearly one in five deaths of children under five.

“We now get water 24 hours a day for free and our women and girls no longer need to carry twenty litre jerry-cans, filled with water, on their backs. Before, when there were water shortages, we were forced to buy water from water vendors coming from Da’aburug town, 25kms away,” Khadar adds.

© UNICEF Somalia/2015/Sarman
The School’s Head Master, Jamal Abdillahi, at his desk.

Women and girls in the village can now stay at home, carrying out their chores or going to school, instead of walking to the farms to fetch water. Halimo Hashi Diriye, who runs a tea shop says, before it was a huge challenge for her and other women in the village to lead a normal life as a result of the water scarcity. But she says the water project changed everything.

“We faced rough times, you know water is life and nothing moves without it,” she says. “Before they installed the water system, every morning we used to wait to hear the sound of the roaring pump used by farmers to water their farms, and then we would rush to the farms leaving our children and business unattended, and sometimes had to wait hours for the water.”

Luul Abdirahman, a mother of four says, availability of water within the village has allowed her enrol her eldest daughter in the local school. “Sometimes, because of the distance and the wait, women would leave their homes in the morning and only return in the evening,” she states. “I left my elder daughter to look after her young siblings. But with the arrival of water in our village I managed to enrol her in primary school.”

The water system, which was built by the Somali NGO Ayoda, provides water for free and there is a Water Committee of seven people overseeing it. However the community is now responsible for its upkeep and when future repairs are needed they will need to contribute.

The UNICEF project also involved building two latrines, one each for boys and girls. at the local school along with hand-washing facilities, including taps.

The School’s Head Master, Jamal Abdillahi, said the availability of water within the school meant they no longer had to buy it each month. “We used to buy water from vendors coming from outside the village, which cost $70 a month. That is a lot of money for us,” he said.

School enrolment has surged since water, sanitation and hygiene facilities were provided. Jamal says the lack of these essential facilities resulted in lower enrolment and attendance.

“We now have our highest ever enrolment – 105 pupils, of which 56 are girls. I believe having a separate girls’ toilet and ensuring water is available, has really boosted enthusiasm” he said.



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