Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Priority issues

UNICEF in Action



UNICEF supports establishment of water supply system for Merka in Somalia

© UNICEF Somalia/2010/CSZOffice
Women and children gather to draw water at one of the water points.

Nairobi, Kenya, 6 May 2010 – Residents of Merka town in Central-South Somalia have more reason to smile following the completion of a water supply system for the town by UNICEF in collaboration with the local community. The new water supply system is benefitting 31,500 residents. 

The hygiene and sanitation situation of Merka town has been greatly improved as a result of the project which included the extension of Merka water supply system and establishment of a sustainable management system. The project included construction of one water tank, rehabilitation of another tank, laying of 12 kilometres of water pipes, the rehabilitation of two boreholes and the construction of 23 water kiosks (water collection points). The kiosks are managed by the Merka Water Board which is part of a Public-Private Partnership in which the Board, the community and the private sector work together to ensure sustainable service delivery. The Merka Water Board is now in the process of establishing a water company that will operate and maintain the water supply system.

“Community members say they have noted a reduction of watery diarrhoea cases which were caused by contaminated water sources that the residents of Merka were previously using for their water supply,” says Mohamed Maalim Bashir, UNICEF Water Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist. “Consumers are charged a small fee for water supply that has been agreed by the community, the board and the local administration. Merka town has a population of about 70,000 and the system is currently serving about half of the population.”

The challenges faced by the project included a delay in implementation as a result of the insecurity and lack of access to the project site for UNICEF staff. However, members of the water board were trained to monitor and report on progress of the work to UNICEF staff.

Following completion of the new water system, residents of Bulo Shidly - one of the poorest sections of Horseed village in Merka - are appreciating the benefits. One beneficiary whose life has been changed by the project, is a 70-year-old man who says: “This project has made a lot of difference to our community which now has access to safe and clean water that children and women can draw easily. This was unimaginable throughout my life even when there was peace in the country.”

Merka town is situated in Lower Shabelle region, approximately 140km south of Mogadishu along the Indian Ocean. It is a historic seaside town originally established during the Sultan of Oman’s rule of East Coast of Africa.

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (2008) revealed low nationwide access to safe drinking water (30% of the population) and use of improved sanitation facilities (23% of the population). This situation is a major contributor to high incidence of diarrhoea and a significant cause of a high rate of malnourishment, illness and mortality in infants and children.

Providing sustainable water supplies in Somalia remains a major challenge given that the effects of civil strife have led to run-down and abandoned water infrastructure.  To ensure sustainability of water supplies in Somalia, UNICEF came up with the Public Private Partnership (PPP) concept. Through this approach, UNICEF has over the last two years funded and expanded projects that are currently benefiting about 406,000 beneficiaries. 

The beneficiaries are as follows: Baidoa, 40,000; Merka, 31,500; Borama, 80,000 (expansion of previous system); Gebiley, 45,000; Berbera, 42,000; Bossaso, 145,000 (expansion of previous system) and Badweyne, 22,500.



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