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Public-private partnerships bring sustainable, safe water to Somali communities

© UNICEF Somalia/2009
In Berbera, north-west Somalia, Amina Farah works as caretaker of the water kiosk at the Jamalaaye settlement for the displaced.

By Iman Morooka

BERBERA, Somalia, 28 September 2009 – Until recently, a run-down urban water system dating from the 19th century delivered scant, low-quality water to the residents of Berbera, a coastal town in north-west Somalia. But that has changed recently.

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In Somalia as a whole, only 29 per cent of the population has access to safe water, due to the lack of adequate water supply facilities and systems. Children under the age of five bear the brunt of the water-borne diseases that result from this situation.

Water system repaired

To address the problem in Berbera, UNICEF – with funding from the European Union – supported the rehabilitation and expansion of the existing water system. The project included the cleaning and protection of the town’s Dubar Springs water source and boreholes. The collection wells and main collection chamber for Berbera were also repaired to guard against contamination.

© UNICEF Somalia/2009
At the Jamalaaye settlement for displaced people in Berbera, north-west Somalia, water kiosk caretaker Amina Farah (left) hands residents jerry cans filled with safe water.

The manager of the Water Authority in Berbera, Abderahman Artan, says the old pipes were cracked, and some were completely blocked.

“One third of water from Dubar Springs nearly didn’t reach the town, causing scarcity of water,” he notes. “But since the replacement of old pipes, water runs smoothly to the town, and I’ve never had to change a pipe.”

Aid for the displaced

Through the construction of three new water kiosks in Jamalaaye, a settlement area for the displaced population living in Berbera, these residents also have benefitted from the project. Previously, many children and women in the area were unable to get to school or to market in the mornings because they had to spend hours searching for safe water. 

“We extended a 3.5 km pipeline to the eastern part of the town, where there was shortage of water in the [displaced persons] settlements,” said UNICEF Somalia Water and Sanitation Officer Osman Ahmed. “One purpose of this project was to avail water for those marginalized [families] who couldn’t reach water points.”

The water kiosks are run by community residents such as Amina Farah, a mother of four who has been living in the Jamalaaye settlement for four years. Serving as a kiosk caretaker, Ms. Farah sells water and ensures that the facility is used properly. Of the 300 shillings that she collects in exchange for each 20 litres of water, 250 shillings goes to the Water Authority for managing the system, while she keeps the rest. 

© UNICEF video
A young girl in the Jamalaaye settlement for the displaced population in Berbera, north-west Somalia.

“Although this income is not much, it helps me buy food and other necessary items for my family,” said Ms. Farah. “Before having this kiosk, we used to spend a lot of time in search of water, and my children got tired and thirsty while waiting for me. Whether it was me or my husband who fetched water, we had problems. But not anymore, thanks to the water that was brought to us.”

Innovative partnership

The newly rehabilitated water system is managed under the public-private partnership approach, which involves the community, the Water Authority and the private sector in ensuring sustainable service delivery. The water board, which was established specifically for this project, represents the various stakeholders and helps monitor and improve the water management system.

UNICEF and the European Union introduced this approach in Somalia in 1997. Since then, several other key donors have come on board to support similar projects. Today, 10 such projects being implemented to bring safe water to Somali communities across the country.

“Our partnership with UNICEF has been very constructive and innovative, in the sense that it has been working by mixing the private and public interests into the water sector,” says European Union Special Envoy to Somalia Georges-Marc Andre.

“The European Union has been supporting water projects in Somalia since 1995, investing a total of €20 million, and helped improve the situation of more than 1 million people in the country,” he adds. “I look forward to continued collaboration with UNICEF.”




UNICEF’s Denise Shepherd-Johnson reports on a public-private partnership that has improved access to safe water in Berbera, north-west Somalia.

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