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10 Facts About Sanitation in Somalia

10 Facts About Sanitation in SomaliaLack of access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is inextricably linked to extreme poverty around the globe. Somalia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, has long faced issues relating to WASH. Though Somalia struggles with WASH, some organizations have vastly improved sanitation in Somalia. The following are 10 facts about sanitation in Somalia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Somalia

  1. Currently, only 52 percent of Somalia’s population has a water supply close to home. This impacts women and children especially since the chore of fetching water falls on them in this society. Women must trek miles in the hot sun to fill jugs of water. Mercy-USA has been working to tackle this water crisis since 1997. In addition, they have dug and repaired about 670 wells. As a result, more than 750,000 people in Somalia have access to safe drinking water.
  2. Only a quarter of Somalia’s population has access to improved sanitation facilities within 10 meters. Poor hygiene and sanitation practices due to a lack of access to proper sanitation facilities can lead to chronic/acute diarrhea, respiratory infections and cholera. Theses are life-threatening illnesses for some age groups. Just the past three years, more than 900 people in Somalia died from cholera. UNICEF is working to improve access to sanitation facilities. It provides integrated interventions that can reduce the incidences of these easily preventable diseases.
  3. Drought has increased the price of water, exacerbating the already dangerous situation. The recent drought in Somalia led to severe water shortages. This tripled the price of a barrel of water (200 liters) to $15. CARE responded to this drought by providing 10,000 people with access to water. Additionally, CARE distributed water purification tablets to areas most affected by the drought.
  4. In parts of Somalia, up to 60 percent of pastoralists’ herds were wiped out by drought. Recently, Somalia experienced a drought that had extremely adverse effects on the country’s pastoralist communities. As Somalia has a traditional agro-pastoral focus, this expected to severely impact the economy. The livestock sector accounts for 40 percent of GDP. Thankfully, “FAO reached 38.3 million animals in Somalia through animal health services.” This “provided more than 900,000 animals with supplementary feeding.” Additionally, it delivered more than 53 million liters of water to these animals in response to the urgent needs of these drought-stricken pastoralists.
  5. Action Against Hunger is providing hygiene education sessions to teach Somali communities about preventing disease. Diseases often spread due to inadequate knowledge surrounding hygienic practices. Action Against Hunger launched a cholera prevention program that provided communities with sessions on hygiene and sanitation. These sessions showed the importance of handwashing, properly disposing of trash and how to properly clean the toilets.
  6. About 37 percent of Somalia’s population defecate in the open, but this is changing. In rural parts of Somalia, open defecation is a common practice that can cause serious risks to public health. UNICEF is working with local partner HEAL in villages in Somalia to educate communities with the goal of ending this practice. Moreover, HEAL proved that simply educating these communities is quite effective. After UNICEF and HEAL provided these villages with technical assistance and ran awareness campaigns, many families used their own money to build latrines. Today 12 villages in Somaliland, two villages in Puntland and 25 villages in Somalia’s central and southern regions have achieved the status of “open defecation free.”
  7. Sanitation in Somali schools is improving. Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) addressed the need for functional toilets, hand-washing stations and waste disposal locations in Somali schools. PAH assessed schools in Somalia and identified five with the highest need for updates, one of which did not have a single running toilet. Additionally, PAH provided these schools with eight water kiosks. It rehabilitated existing facilities and built “20 triple latrine-blocks with hand-washing facilities.”
  8. Discussion groups are helping organizations understand how to improve Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in Somalia. In Somalia, menstruation continues to be a taboo. Many women only have access to cloth rags that restrict movement. The cloth rags are unsanitary because houses do not always have the ability to wash them regularly. ELRHA sent 2,000 MHM kits to various countries, including Somalia. Its plans are to follow up in one and three months to measure the appropriateness, effectiveness, acceptability and value of these kits as a humanitarian relief item.
  9. Piped water from UNICEF-EU installed tanks is giving children hope that they will be able to attend school in lieu of fetching water. A joint urban water project is installing water tanks on the outskirts of Somali towns and pipelines. In addition, it will bring this vital resource closer to their homes. Farrah, who is 13 years old, supports his family as a water vendor. Hopefully, once water is piped into his town, he will be able to go to school instead of traveling daily for water. Farrah mentioned that “I will go to school. […] I will carry books instead of jerrycans. And I will walk with my classmates instead of a donkey. It has always been my dream to wear a uniform and carry books.”
  10. In the last year, more than 49,000 people had to flee their homes in search of water and other necessities. This came after a drought in 2016 to 2017 that displaced more than one million people. As a result, the U.N. Refugee Agency has been working with partners and government agencies to help those affected and displaced by the drought. They provided emergency assistance to some of the most affected areas of Somalia.

Lack of sanitation is closely tied to poverty. People are unable to break the cycle of poverty when their basic needs are not met. Somalia is still far from achieving proper sanitation for all who inhabit the country. However, these facts about sanitation in Somalia prove that hope is not lost. With help from generous organizations around the world, sanitation can become accessible for all.

Hannah White

Photo: Flickr