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Sanitation in SomaliaLack of access to WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is inextricably linked to extreme poverty around the globe. Somalia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, has long faced issues relating to the provision of adequate sanitation services for its citizens. Though Somalia struggles with WASH, several organizations have vastly improved sanitation in the country, positively impacting education and health. The following are seven facts about sanitation in Somalia.

7 Facts About Sanitation in Somalia

  1. Improved water sources make education accessible. Currently, only 45 percent of Somalia’s population has access to improved water sources. Lack of access to clean water prevents children from attending school because they are forced to spend much of their day collecting water. Mercy-USA is working to tackle this water crisis and give children the chance to have the education they deserve. Since 1997, the organization has dug and repaired about 670 wells, benefiting more than 750,000 people in Somalia.
  2. Waterborne diseases result in numerous deaths per year. Waterborne illnesses such as cholera and diarrhea are the primary cause of 23 percent of deaths in children under 5 and are strongly correlated with child malnutrition. UNICEF is working to improve access to sanitation facilities and provide integrated interventions that reduce incidences of diarrhea.
  3. Improving health through hygiene education. Diseases often spread due to inadequate knowledge surrounding hygienic practices. Action Against Hunger launched a cholera prevention program in Somalia, which provided communities with hygiene education sessions. These sessions helped people understand the importance of handwashing, properly disposing of trash, and how to keep latrines clean.
  4. Drought kills cattle and leads to contaminated water sources, but UNICEF is helping. Recently, Somalia experienced a drought that had extremely adverse effects on much of the population. For many, farming is vital to their existence. The drought forced many farmers to migrate with their animals in search of water, but many animals died in travel. With so many animal carcasses littering Somalia, rainfall posed a threat of contamination to their water sources. In Somaliland and Puntland, UNICEF and WFP responded to the drought to provide food and water vouchers to about 76,000 people, saving those with compromised livelihoods.
  5. Reducing open defecation can improve health. The prevalence of open defecation in rural areas is estimated at 56 percent, leading to a vicious cycle of illness as it pollutes water that people use for cooking, cleaning and drinking. While many parts of Somalia experienced a massive outbreak of cholera after a severe drought (affecting more than 80,000 people), there were no cases in the village of Luqgodey where a UNICEF-supported program put an end to open defecation.
  6. Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) kits are improving women’s health. In Somalia, there continues to be taboo surrounding menstruation. In addition, some women only have access to cloth rags that restrict movement and are unsanitary because they have a limited source of water. The ELRHA sent 2,000 MHM kits to various countries, including Somalia, to help tackle this issue.
  7. Recent periods of drought have displaced over 1 million people. A severe drought in 2017 displaced 1.5 million people in Somalia and almost led to a famine. Thankfully, UNICEF provided safe drinking water to 1.8 million people, along with other critical interventions to meet the basic needs of Somali children and women affected by this drought.

While Somalia is still far from achieving proper sanitation for all who inhabit the country, these seven facts about sanitation in Somalia prove that hope is not lost and that, with help from philanthropic organizations around the world, sanitation can become accessible for all.

– Hannah White
Photo: Flickr

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