Wajaale, Somaliland, August 2017 – Seventy-four year old Mariam Omar Farah couldn’t hide her excitement when she heard her town would, for the first time receive piped, clean water that week. Mariam lives in a shack with eight family members including grandchildren, one hundred metres from the main reservoir tank of the new project.
When she was told, she immediately sat up and said: “This is one of the best pieces of news I have ever had. I have lived in Wajaale for my whole life and I have struggled to get water just like those before me. We spend a lot of time and energy to get water from a local water pan which is not even good to drink. Now I can get clean water from the tank that’s just next to my house.”
Mariam is among some 40,000 people in Wajaale who will benefit from the “Improved Urban Water Service Delivery” project being delivered through a Public Private Partnership funded by the European Union and UNICEF. Wajaale was selected as one of four towns in Somaliland for the project in 2012.
“For so long this expanding town lacked clean piped water,” said the Mayor of Wajaale, Hashi Mohamud Abdi.” We had previously made plans to get water here but it never happened. When I was a child in the 1960s I heard my parents and older people always talking and dreaming of getting clean water here. Today we succeeded and our dream came true.”
Getting water from a pipe connected to a borehole in Bator 20kms from Wajaale. This water has now reached Wajaale as well.
For the next two months, residents can get water from the main tank. Meanwhile pipes are being laid to public kiosks with taps where the public is charged for each jerrycan and, also, for those who can afford it, to private homes with water meters.
UNICEF’s Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Mahboob Ahmed Bajwa said the piped water would have great benefits for the town. “During the past year in particular, with the drought, there has been a huge increase in people suffering from water borne diseases in Somaliland,” he said. “The successful completion of this pipeline will have huge health benefits for the people of Wajaale.”
Children playing in the water pan that previously supplied drinking water and water for domestic chores to Wajaale town.
The local rain-fed water pan is about a kilometre from the town, but the water is contaminated by human and animal faeces and has led to disease outbreaks. During the dry season the water dries up and people and water vendors travel to a seasonal river 15 kilometres away. While those far from kiosks will continue to rely on water sellers, the price of water is expected to drop drastically.
The water is pumped to Wajaale’s tank from a borehole at a village 24 kilometers away. This groundwater, found below the water table, is good quality and does not need to be treated.
The local company formed with EU and UNICEF support is called ‘Caafi’ Water Company, a Somali word meaning “good health” and the private sector buys shares in this company. CAAFI is expected to reinvest some of the profit in the expansion of the water supply, install the distribution network, construct its own offices and support the Water Users’ Association.
In 2015 a UNICEF survey found that just over half the households in Somaliland (56 per cent) had access to safe drinking water – over half the households in the country still take over 30 minutes to fetch water.
By Jamal Abdi Sarman