The scarcity of water is commonly known as one of the most significant environmental challenges in Mudug region in Somalia, despite the above average rains during the last rainy season. The scarcity of this essential resource continues to challenge the health of all Somalis. Women and children are hit particularly hard, and are frequently cited as one of the root causes of the conflict here.
Garwalee is small village located in Hobyo district – Mudg Region – Somalia lies about 142 Km east Galkacyo, and the main economic activity of the population is livestock grazing.
The village relies on one Berkad (rain water catchment) for all its water requirements and when the rains fail or during prolonged dry seasons, water has to be trucked from distance sources, therefore GSA, Yme and NorSom were started work on providing a more efficient way to get water for more than 5000 people live in the area by providing long-term access to clean water through deep water well funded by the MFA of Norway.
I meet a woman called Amna* 25 years old. She remembers staring the gaping hole of the dug well, she along with other women in the village come to the drilling site to take water every day, and she was one of many people photographed staring down into the well. Anna lives with her four young children in the Garwalee village; she recently arrived from Hiiran region, having been displaced by clans fighting in that area. “We were fearful for our lives,” she said. “Everyone was saying there would be fighting and bombardments.”
“It was May; all of the villagers were working hard. I was sleeping when I heard our village being attacked,” recalls Amna, her eyes staring steadfastly into the distance.
“I didn’t know who was shooting at us or why, their faces were covered. First they came on camels and then they came in heavy vehicles, and then they came on foot. There was so much screaming, people running, and fire everywhere. I was so afraid I just ran I didn’t even put my shoes on.”
Amna’s three young sons and little daughter skip in a zig-zag pattern in front of her, and her husband was killed in the war, finally they living here in Garwalee village in a one room, mud-walled hut and with little food. Her days were consumed by the struggle to survive.
“When we arrived at this village water was a big problem” says Amna. “We had to walk to the water catchment 2 km from the village to collect it, and this was dangerous, because we were threatened by nomads who would beat and attack us.
“But we needed to fetch the water for our daily chores, so we had no choice but to leave the village.”
“Losing my husband to the fighting has made me more determined to give my children a future. As a mother it is my duty to provide for my family but sometimes I failed them, I could not find enough water and food to stop their thirsty and hunger.”
She was one of the villagers who rehabilitate the water catchment every year, water catchments are not a new concept in Somalia, but often these water catchments were poorly constructed, causing silting and erosion. For Amna this was a big undertaking “Building the water catchment was hard but it felt good: working together and watching it take shape stone by stone. When the rains fell we rejoiced, knowing that we would have enough water to survive”.
For a long time, Amna and the entire village didn’t have clean drinking water. They depended on water catchment. The journey to the water catchment would take up to an hour. To meet the demand for water of Amna’s family and her animals, they used to make five to six trips daily.
A water system in the area has been constructed providing the 500 households with easy access to clean drinking water and reducing the time spent in search of water.
It’s the highlight of their day collecting water from the area standpipe. The presence of one standpipe in this area might not seem like much, but for Amna and her neighbors it represents an amazing achievement.
Amna walks back, this time her jerry-can effortlessly balanced on her head, not a drop spilt, and she’s home safely in less than ten minutes.
It was the best day when we had our own water here in the village for us and our animals. We still face many challenges of living here, but at least we don’t need to worry about fetching water.
“I can keep myself and my two young boys healthy, because I have clean water every day”
“Soon I will build new room because I have now enough water.”
“Waa mahadsantahy – thank you” she said