Lack 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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