May 01, 2009

Somaliland: Major Improvements in Water Quality

Active ImageBig improvements in water safety and sanitation have been made thanks to availability of water purification tablets, central water supply systems and privatization of services.


Below is an article published by IRIN:

The availability of water purification tablets, digging of shallow wells in rural areas as well as privatisation of water services have resulted in more people in Somalia's self-declared republic of Somaliland gaining access to clean water and proper sanitation, officials said.

At least 45-50 percent of the Somaliland population now has access to safe water, compared with 35 percent in 2000, according to Ali Sheikh Omar Qabil, director of environmental health in the Ministry of Health and Labour.

"Most of the urban centres such as Hargeisa [the capital], Borama, Berbera, and Gabiley have central water supply systems and chlorine is routinely mixed into the water provided," Qabil said.

Sheikh Ali Jawhar, director of the water department in the Ministry of Minerals and Water, said: "The installation of chlorination equipment units in water supply dams in the main urban centres and at shallow wells in remote areas is one of the factors that has increased water sanitation in the country."

However, Jawhar said the region had yet to meet international standards in terms of quantity, with the average safe water availability being 14l per person per day in the capital and 8l in rural areas. The international standard is 20l/person/day.

Water purification tablets are widely available across the region, supplied and sold by the NGO Population Services International (PSI).


In Borama region, the privatisation of the town's water agency, Shirkadda Adeega Bulshada Awdal, has been one the reason for improved access to water and sanitation.

"We have made major improvements in both water access and supply for the town," Abdirahman Mohamoud Muse, a board member, said. "We supply water to about 80,000-100,000 of the city inhabitants."

Muse said: "We have an agreement with the Somaliland authorities on profit sharing; for example, we get 20 percent of the benefit of the total investment while 3 percent is paid to the local government in taxes and we give some to the Ministry of Minerals and Water."

The privatisation followed a severe water shortage in the area. The project was funded by USAID through the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Before then, only 500 cubic metres was pumped for use in Borama region but the firm now pumps 1,700 cubic metres per day, Muse said.

Reaching more people

He said the number of houses that had installed water supply pipes had significantly increased since 2003.
"Only 250 households had installed the water pipes [in 2003] but now we have installed pipes in about 5,000 households and more than 2,000 households share [the water pipes] with their neighbours while the others get water from kiosk centres, which we consider to be clean water," Muse said. "Fewer than 1.2 percent of Borama residents do not receive the agency's water supply."

However, Muse expressed concern over the depletion of water sources in parts of the region, "especially in the main urban centres of Somaliland, Hargeisa and Borama".

He said this had forced the water ministry to conduct surveys to identify new water sources. Consequently, Muse added, the Borama water agency had dug a new well in Amoud, Borama region.

"The depletion [of the water sources] followed a dramatic increase in the urban population and the construction of modern buildings," Jawhar said.

"For example, when China installed a water system in Hargeisa and Borama, the density of the population and buildings was much smaller than what we have today; Hargeisa then had only 150,000 individuals but now its population is about 800,000 yet nothing has changed in its water supply system."

Despite the progress made in water provision and sanitation, Somaliland authorities remain concerned over services in parts of the republic, such as Burou, the second-largest city, which, Qabil said, lacked adequate water chlorination.

"This is why we consider Burou the most risky place in the country as it lacks a link to the central dam where water chlorination is done," Qabil said. "In fact, diarrhoea has broken out in recent years in the city several times, which we attribute to the lack of chlorination of the town water supply."