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Somali children have little to cheer about as world marks Water Day

NAIROBI, 20 March 2009 – The International community and Somalis need to ensure peace and stability in the country to enable the provision of adequate supplies of clean drinking water for more children and women, UNICEF Somalia Representative, Christian Balslev-Olesen said today in the run-up to the marking of World Water Day on Sunday 22 March.

Currently, only about 29 per cent of the population in Somalia has access to clean drinking water and 37 per cent to sanitary means of excreta disposal. The destruction and looting of water supply infrastructure during the civil war, the continuing conflict and other environmental problems are another hindrance.     

“The challenge of delivering water to Somalis is the challenge of getting the country back to a peaceful path. With stability, a great deal can be achieved in ensuring more people have access to better services. While financial and technical resources could be available to ensure supplies, insecurity hinders the effort, " said Mr Balslev-Olesen. “Water has to be more than a pipe dream for Somalis, it has to be part of the reality.”

One of the impacts of lack of access to water and sanitation services is a high rate of water-related diseases such as diarrhea, (including cholera), which accounts for about 20% of the country’s under five mortality. 

To redress the situation, UNICEF and other aid agencies have been involved in the provision of adequate support to the sector in rural and urban settings through operations and maintenance of facilities; construction and rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems; training of communities to sustain the operations of these systems; promotion of correct hygiene practices amongst the public and in schools;  construction of latrines in schools and health facilities and capacity-building support for local water management institutions. Between now and next year, UNICEF is expected to complete construction and extension of six urban water systems expected to supply clean drinking water to 162,000 people.

“World Water Days should give Somali children and women a chance to celebrate gains in access. However, this is not always the case as insecurity not only prevents progress but reverses it. People living in previously served areas have ended up being displaced,” said UNICEF Somalia Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) section, Zaid Jurji. “A case in point is the displacement of about 400,000 people from Mogadishu since 2007 to the Afgoye corridor south of the city. The persons who moved to Afgoye did not have access to adequate water and sanitation until UNICEF and other aid agencies stepped in to provide supplies through trucking. Gradually this is being replaced by more permanent supply systems for the displaced people.”

Much more needs to be done to ensure that children and women have access to a sustainable supply of clean water. This will reduce the time and energy that girls and women in particular have to spend traveling long distances to fetch water. It will improve the attendance and attention of girls in school and enable mothers to spend more time with their families.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information contact:  

Zaid Jurji, Chief, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), UNICEF Somalia, Cell: +254 723 786 975. Email: zjurji@unicef.org
Annmarie Swai, Project Office, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), UNICEF Somalia. +254 722 729 729. Tel:+254-20-7623950/59. Email: aswai@unicef.org
Iman Morooka. Communication Officer, UNICEF Somalia, Email:imorooka@unicef.org. Tel + 254 713 506 076
Robert Kihara, Communication Officer, UNICEF Somalia, Tel: +254 722 206 883. Email: rkihara@unicef.org




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