Life for the people of south central Somalia has always been tough – this part of Somalia is one of the most arid areas in the world and years of internal conflict have torn apart many families.
The people of Xingod village in Hobyo district in south central Somalia rely on water pumped from the ground by a diesel-driven borehole. When it broke down, the ripple effects went further than the struggle to find alternative supplies.
Twenty year-old Safia*, its early morning, she start telling me her story
“Life is difficult here. The landscape is dry, rocky and unforgiving, and there is very little rainfall. Drought is a real threat and more recently the women, men and children who live here have been experiencing erratic and unseasonal weather.
The arrival of the rainy season has often been unpredictable and the dry season has lasted longer than expected.” She said
The area has historically been affected by water scarcity. Most of Xingod’s inhabitants are pastoralists, who are especially vulnerable to a lack of water. Water for livestock is as high a priority as water for humans.
Drought affected surrounding rural communities, where traditional water collection facilities (Berkads) have dried up following the failure of October-December rains; now depend heavily on this reliable water source.
Two boreholes in the village, the old borehole was drilled in 1986 and has not been used for 4 years due to pump failure and also to salinity.
The borehole was rehabilitated several times by GSA, Yme and NorSom. In 2011 was drilled by other NGO.
Safia said “The whole life of this village depends only on the God, and secondly on the water from the new borehole. When it breaks, life becomes so difficult, people become weak and they could die.”
“You know, the water is not just for the village here, it is being taken to other people living so far away.”
As a result of the breakdown many nomads left the village, leaving behind about 2500 people.
“When that day came last year when I heard that the borehole was broken, that was such a shock to me. I was completely out of my mind. We became displaced, it reminded me of the time of the civil war, when we had to run away from our homes because of fighting.” She said
I imagine that so many other lives have problems too. There is no good water for at least 50 km in any direction. People come here from so far for water.
The community were depend mainly on water from hand dug wells and berkads or water trucked from the Ceel Dibir area 50 km away.
Safia husband said “When the borehole is damaged, people are forced to buy water from trucks, and it is very costly. Those who cannot afford must leave their homes. Some who stay use dirty water and they fall sick”
“When that borehole was not functioning, it was also the start of the drought,” he said. “People were so thirsty then, the animals were so thirsty. I had to take the animals very far to find water.”
“Children’s enrolment in schools was significantly affected when the community’s water source was not working,” he said.
“There are children who had to go far to find water for the family, and that meant they come late to school, or do not attend at all. Sometimes they are forced to use cooking water for drinking, and they fall sick.”
“I go to the water source three times a day. In total, I fill nine 20-litre jerry-cans each day, for cooking, cleaning utensils, cleaning clothes and bathing the children.
Before the borehole was rehabilitated by GSA, Yme and NorSom, we used water from shallow wells we dug here. But they were not clean and the children fell sick” Safia said.
“Again when the water ran out, we had to move from our home and travel to the nearest village, where I rented a house which cost too much money. Everything was new to me and to the children and we couldn’t adjust, I can say that economically and socially we were isolated, there were always problems between me and the neighbors about grazing land and water for our livestock.”
“Today I am happy”
“When I heard the borehole was fixed, I was so excited; I even made the children excited, I told them we were going home to our old house, to our camels, to our trees and the shade they give, to our soil. I couldn’t wait a moment longer to come home”. Safia said
“Now we can drink water every day, we can wash clothes every day, the children can go to school clean each day, they are even healthier because of drinking clean water”.
“Now we are home again, this is our environment, the kids know their friends, they know the food, and they know where they can play. Really, when they fixed the borehole, and we say thank you for that, that’s when our life changed back for the better.”
“Now the water is right in front of my house,” she said.
“That means I have the opportunity to collect water very early in the morning, and go to open my shop earlier, and I can earn more income for my children. I am so happy about this; it has changed things a lot for us.”
Now that the borehole is fixed, you can see everyone is so satisfied and happy. The repairs were carried out as part of the GSA, Yme and NorSom activities for providing better social services across all regions of Somalia.
One of the community elder and father of nine says: “Now we have water produced locally, in a time when communities are facing a big drought problem. When this borehole was not working, we had to rely on trucks which travelled long distances to transport water and we had to pay almost six times the price of what we pay now.”