Water and sanitation upgrades improve life for Somali children and women

News and Press Release
Originally published
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By Iman Morooka

DHEENTA VILLAGE, Somalia, 06 January 2010 - The people of Dheenta village didn't have safe water until two months ago. But now, thanks to the UNICEF-supported new water system, about 300 families are benefiting from a regular supply of clean and safe water.

The solar-powered system in Dheenta village - located about 35 kilometres east of the city of Hargeisa - is one of the new systems established with funding from the Government of Japan.

Water is scarce in Somalia, where only 29 per cent of the population has access to safe water, and only 23 per cent have access to improved sanitation facilities. UNICEF has supported the provision of safe water to 100,000 people this year by establishing new - or rehabilitating existing - water systems.

Ensuring sustainability

Jamilah, 11, is the youngest of twelve in her family, so fetching water is her task. It used to be arduous, taking two hours every day to walk back and forth from the closest valley with shallow wells. Now she simply goes three times a day to the new water kiosk.

"I don't mind fetching water every day because I can help my mother. Now I come to the kiosk three times a day after school, and still, I have time to study what I learned in school," said Jamilah.

Rahma Omar, pregnant with her fifth child, also had to walk a long distance until the water kiosk was installed: "Both humans and animals drank from the same source. Water was sometimes discoloured, and children used to get diseases and suffered from diarrhoea," she recalled.

The solar powered systems are much cheaper to operate and maintain than systems operated by traditional fuel, which is crucial in this region that has seen declining livelihoods due to drought.

"With communities getting poorer, this is an appropriate way to ensure sustainability of water provision," said Hassan Egal, WASH Specialist with UNICEF Somalia.

Expanding access

UNICEF's water and sanitation interventions in Somalia have also included promoting hygiene and sanitation in schools and health facilities. By constructing latrines and hand-washing facilities, UNICEF was able to benefit 12,000 children and women.

For the first time, the children of Ali Jama Primary school in Hargeisa have latrines in their school. Rahma Ali, 17, says that she couldn't enjoy her break before the latrines were installed.

"I had to go all the way home to use the bathroom during my break, and sometimes I was late for class. But now, instead of walking home, I can read and have snacks during the break," she said.

Generous contributions are making it possible for UNICEF to continue working with partners to ensure that long-term and sustainable solutions continue to be put in place to improve the quality of life for Somali communities.