Access to safe water transforms lives of residents in the remote Rugey Village
By Ettie Higgins
RUGEY VILLAGE, Northwest Somalia “Somaliland”, 10 December 2010 – Deep in the Daallo mountains, where the only road is a dirt path, less than five metres wide carved into the sides of the cliffs, lies the village of Rugey. The drive to Rugey from the nearest town, Erigavo, takes over four hours and the journey is perilous, with vehicles being lost to the steep mountains every year. The difficulty in access adds to the isolation and seclusion of Rugey, where there are no policemen and only the village chief is responsible for law and order. However, in this community of less than 800 inhabitants, a small transformation has taken place in the past year.
Khadija speaks confidently, explaining that her tea-shop is doing brisk business, and she has recently started selling dishes of food with the tea. She is making money that she didn’t think possible, and is ploughing whatever money she can back into her children’s education.
A mother of four children, Khadija has lived in this village all her life, and recalls memories from her childhood spent tending to her family’s livestock in the mountain hills. Much of her life, up until earlier this year, was also spent fetching water – for washing, drinking and cooking – first for her parents and siblings when she was a child, and later for her husband and children. Her daughters had also begun to help her, although her six year old could only carry five litres at a time.
The trip to bring water home was gruelling; the only clean drinking water available was down a deep ravine 500 metres from the village. The hill has such a steep gradient that even donkeys tended to slip on the loose rocks and break legs, causing loss of income for the owner. So it became the task of the women and girls of the village, Khadija among them, to walk down and pump the water into 20 litre containers, and then begin the slow journey back up the steep hill. The entire process of fetching water took between six to eight hours a day.In late 2009, UNICEF began the works to establish a water solar system, installing pipes up the steep hill, casting a new slab for the pump, building a water reservoir tank at the top of the hill along with a small pump-house. Once the solar panel had been installed, and a water dispensing point built in the centre of the village, the testing of the system confirmed that all was in order. After a couple of months, there was running water available in the middle of the village – meaning hundreds of hours would be saved every week as the women and children of Rugey could instead spend time on other activities, such as making small businesses, while the children went to school.
Hassan Egal, UNICEF Water and Sanitation Officer who installed the system says “because of the difficulties in fetching water, and the community’s commitment and proactive spirit to maintain a hand-pump and solar system, UNICEF supported the installation of the water system so that it could bring about a transformation for the lives of women and children in Rugey, giving them the opportunity to spend more time on education and income-generating activities.”
"I now have clean water to run my tea shop, and the time I used to spend before on fetching water is now spent on caring for my children and looking after my flock of goats and sheep" said Khadija.
Ahmed, the village chief, has also noticed that there are now fewer children and adults falling sick with diarrhoea, since before they relied on unsafe water sources. “Our priority now is education for all of the children” states Ahmed, “we want to make sure that everyone can read and write.”
For UNICEF, the work will continue in water, and other areas such as health and education in Rugey village. Egal adds, “In the months to come, we will build on this success with the water system, and we will continue our work in sanitation efforts with the community. We can see the change in the village today with this solar-powered water system, and it’s really inspiring.”