Since 1996, the Somali region has been either in a state of drought, recovering from a drought or moving into a new drought.
The drought had a severe impact on livestock: most pastoralists experienced losses not only due to the drought but also due to animal diseases. Because of this, there was low production of camel milk, meaning that many people had to buy food instead. At the same time, they had less money because they had fewer animals and milk to sell.
There was also an acute water crisis, making many people reliant on pricey water trucking, which depleted the limited resources they had. Through a combination of these factors, many families, particularly the poorest, were pushed to the edge.
In response, GSA, Yme and NorSom were implemented drilling borehole in some affected villages funded by Norway government one borehole drilled in Baxado village about 90 km southwest Galkacyo town – South central Somalia. I meet some people and I ask them about the effect of this borehole on their life.
A mother of four children, Zahara* 40 year old- has lived in this village all her life, and recalls memories from her childhood spent tending to her family’s livestock in the area. Much of her life was also spent fetching water – for washing, drinking and cooking – first for her parents and siblings when she was a child, and later for her husband and children. Her daughters had also begun to help her, although her six year old could only carry five litres at a time.
“Drought-affected surrounding rural communities, where traditional water collection facilities (Berkads) have dried up following the failure of Gu rains, I lose more the 50 animals due to water shortage.” She said.
The only clean drinking water (Berkads) available about 2 km from the village. The area is very rough even donkeys sometimes difficult to reach the water sources. So it became the task of the women and girls of the village, Zahara among them, to walk 2 km and fetch the water into 20 litre containers, and then begin the journey back. The entire process of fetching water took between six to eight hours a day.
“Women who had to walk long distances were exposed to different sorts of risks.” Zahara said
Ten year old Fartoune* and her family used to be constantly on the move in search of water for themselves and their livestock, so fetching water is her task. It used to be arduous, taking two hours every day to walk back and forth from the closest shallow wells.
Fartoune’s family is among the 10,000 residents of Baxado village, who have benefitted from the borehole.
“I used to get water from hand dug well and spend more than one hour fetching a container of ten liters from the hand dug well. I often feel pain from carrying heavy weight, and I don’t have time to go school and play with my friend Amna, but now it is very easy to get the water within less than 5 minutes and still have time” Fartoune said
Hassan is the fourth born in a poor rural family used to make some of the trips to the well with his friend Ali and other peers in the village. “Going to the dug well and coming back with water was always a struggle”
Salaat, father of five, said that before having the borehole, he used to buy water from vendors who traveled with their water trucks around the villages for his family and the livestock which is expansive spatially in dry period.
“At that time, poorest people have no choice but to drink water from dirty sources,”
“The people here had no any other regular water source other than the Berkads which were dry most of the year”
“Both humans and animals drank from the same source. Water was sometimes discolored, and children used to get diseases and suffered from diarrhea,” he said.
During this time, another borehole located about 40 km away in Sadaxheglo village would be the only alternative or water trucked to the village and sold at the cost of US$ 1 per 20 litre jerry can. Most people couldn’t afford it.
“Now the people of the village will no longer have to spend lots of time and money to get water.” Salaat said.
Salaat said the installation of the water system has meant families no longer have to move in search of water to find pasture for their livestock.
Zahara agrees, “You cannot imagine how grateful we are. I used to spend three days to take my goats for water, now I am so relieved, and will no longer have to worry about going a long distance for water. My life will improve for sure; I will have plenty of time to rest and to look after my children. I will now have time to concentrate on their education.”
“Even relations have improved with our neighbouring villages that come to fetch water from here,” said Salaat.
Halema*, a mother of five, said that her family’s life has changed since installing the new borehole”.
“Before this, we used to wait for the donkey cart to come and bring us water to buy every few days,” she said. “Sometimes, because of the water shortage, even the seller didn’t have water to sell. Now we have water in our house every day, all the time. It is clean. I feel safe because I can save it in my own containers; we spend much less on water than before.” She said
At the village health post, Mahamoud said “the numbers of admissions at the time before the borehole were far higher than today. He added that the number of people with diarrhea coming to the health centre has fallen, and attributes the improvement to the water supply”.
“This water system has eased the stress particularly on women who used to spend most of their time in search of water, which is now available to all” He said.
“There is a direct impact especially on children’s health and on hygiene generally. We are teaching people to wash their hands, to clean their utensils, to keep their latrines clean, but how can you do that when there is no clean water? But now we can”
Families who were forced to leave the village and migrate to unfamiliar towns far away have returned. Classes are full again, business is growing at the market, and goats and camels crowd water troughs.
Zahara speaks confidently, explaining that her tea-shop is doing brisk business. She is making money that she didn’t think possible, and is ploughing whatever money she can back into her children’s education.
“I don’t mind fetching water every day because I can help my mother. Now I come to the borehole three times a day after school, and still, I have time to study what I learned in school and I have enough time to play with my friends,” Fartoune said