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FIELD DIARY: Reaching the last quintile in remote areas of Somalia

UNICEF Somalia/ Abuuru
© UNICEF Somalia/ 2011/ Abuuru
Drilling of borehole underway in Heeco, central Somalia.

Maulid Warfa is an Emergency Officer with UNICEF Somalia. In response to the current drought, he visited remote locations in central Somalia as part of a UNICEF team on a WASH monitoring mission.

By Maulid Warfa

GALKAYO, Somalia, 1 April 2011 - We set out on a Saturday and headed east from our base in Galkayo toward Hobyo, a coastal town and a haven for some of Somalia’s pirates. After only a few kilometres’ drive we were in a dusty semi-desert, where the earth was scorching. The first settlement we came upon was the little village of Bitale, a strategic watering point for livestock.

Though the settlement is impoverished it boasts a towering telecommunication mast: a sign of Somalia’s technology boom. The rest of the landscape is flat and barren. Our driver is told, “Strictly follow the tracks of the cars ahead: there could be landmines!” as he struggles to manoeuver the heavy armoured car on the sandy road.

After a drive of about three and half hours – a 110 km journey - the driver points out a rig. We are in Heeco, where UNICEF is supporting the drilling of a borehole. It feels like we are in the middle of nowhere but according to UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, Abdirahman Isack, some 20,000 pastoralists will benefit from the borehole once it is completed. According to Abdirahman, deciding on the location for the borehole took four months of exhaustive consultations with elders from three different clan communities, the local Galmudug authorities and NGO partners, but now that it is decided it will provide a permanent water source for this drought-stricken area.

The drilling itself has not been easy. Daniel Kimani, the Kenyan drill-master working on the site says, “It took us two months to reach where we are today, but we’ve finally hit the water and after casing the borehole, we should be pumping by next week.”

While Douglas Abuuru, another UNICEF WASH specialist, analyzed samples of water and soil collected from the different stages of the drilling, I climbed up the rig, to take a bird’s eye look around. I wondered what a life without water would mean to the nomads in the area. Reflecting on this, Bastien Vigneau, UNICEF Chief of Field Office for South and Central Somalia remarked, “In this area, where it seemed an impossible task to find water, we have achieved it. Now we really are reaching ‘the last quintile’!”

UNICEF wants to address recurrent water crises in Somalia with more sustainable solutions, so in addition to the borehole at Heeco, UNICEF has drilled three more strategic boreholes in central Somalia with funding from the Italian Development Cooperation.

Water has been major source of conflict in this part of Somalia for many years and we saw evidence of this on our return journey to Galkayo.  Just 70 km from our destination, our convoy was brought to a sudden halt at the sight of gunmen chasing animals from a water trough. Our military escort went to investigate and managed to calm things down. It turned out that the gunmen had mistaken us for a rival clan coming to raid their water point. Just 6 months ago, over 50 people died when two clans fought over a similar water point nearby.

This is why our work is important. The boreholes will not only bring water but they can be a catalyst for peace and help to create stability and security.



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