Somalilandsun- Until the recent drought, the village of Dheenta in Somaliland enjoyed clean drinking water, pumped through a solar powered system from a hand-dug well situated in a riverbed, to an elevated storage tank connected to several accessible water points in the village. But the well ran dry for several months as a result of the prolonged drought condition and the villagers were forced to return to walking for hours in search of water or buying water at high prices from vendors.
“Water is a big problem here,” said Halima Hussein pulling a bucket of water from a dug-well situated in the riverbed. Her children had to miss school to help fetch water for the house and water the animals.
“This well has very little water and as you can see it is not clean. My children are drinking it and I pray they don’t fall sick, “she added.
A lack of water has led to poor hygiene practices. The Head Teacher of the local primary school, Ismael Idley said the lack of water in the school meant students could not wash their hands after using the toilet.
“Maintaining hygiene standards in a school without water is challenging and risks disease outbreak,” said Ismael Idley. “We really hope the water will be restored soon, and not only for the school but for health centre which can’t operate because of the lack of water.”
At the same time the lack of water meant people were forced to use contaminated water leading to an increased risk to Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) or cholera outbreak.
However UNICEF with funding from the government of Sweden has been upgrading existing water systems in places like Dheenta village to improve access to clean water.
Heavy earthmoving equipment scooped up the soil from the riverbed, while trucks emptied stones next to a group of engineers constructing a sub-surface dam across the river.
“We are building the dam across this seasonal river so it can retain water underground for use during the dry seasons,” says Sahr Kemoh, UNICEF Somalia WASH Specialist. “We will support the construction of two additional shallow wells in the riverbed and use the existing solar powered system to pump water to the tank. We’ll replace the broken pipes and build two more water kiosks.”
When the project is complete, it will benefit over 2,000 people including the school and health facilities. Agricultural activities along the river bank are expected to increase due to the increased access to water that will be retained in the sub-surface dam – a climate change resilient water supply intervention.
UNICEF WASH is using sustainable approaches to water projects including the use of solar powered pumps and has implemented over 90 solar powered water supply schemes since 2011, benefiting around 50,000 people. Sweden is supporting solar powered water supply systems in Kismayo in Jubaland state and Dusamareb in Galmudug, community water supply in Iskushuban in Puntland and three solar powered systems in Baki district, Somaliland.