, Nairobi, 11 May – In an effort to boost access to basic services in Somalia, UNICEF is strengthening local capacity in the northeast region of the country to provide safe drinking water to children and their families.
“Water is the main source of life, but it can also be a source of disease.
So it is vitally important that families have access to safe water,” UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, As Sy, said today coming back from a visit to Bossaso in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, northeast Somalia, where he inaugurated a water supply system constructed with UNICEF support.
With funding from the European Union, UNICEF supported construction of a 1,000 cubic meter water tank on a nearby hillside and installed a seven kilometer pipeline that delivers water to the town below.
The extension project began in 2008 and took one and a half years to complete. The extension to the town’s water system connects an additional 87,000 people, or 65 percent of the town’s population, to a safe drinking water supply.
Internally displaced people (IDPs), their host communities and the urban poor are also served by the new system. Before the project began only 47,000 people (35 percent of the population) had access to safe water.
“It is encouraging to see that if government leadership, community engagement, and support from the international community come together, we can ensure access to social services even under very difficult circumstances,” said Mr. Sy. “The water project is just one example of what we can achieve together.”
Bossaso’s water supply system is maintained through an innovative public-private partnership in which the local authority, the community and the private sector work together to guarantee sustainable service delivery.
The system is managed by a Water Board which ensures that water quality and quantity standards are met; establishes affordable water rates; manages household connections; and ensures kiosks (water collection points) are operated and maintained efficiently.
Water is free to public institutions such as schools, hospitals and mosques.
“It has been a humbling experience to see how resilient people can be in such a difficult environment, how mothers always try to find the best possible way to feed their children, take care of them, and send them to school,” Mr. Sy said. “Despite these successes, however, we are faced with great challenges when it comes to providing basic infrastructure to the growing number of displaced people, and helping young people grow to be true citizens and be protected against enlistment by extremist groups and participation in piracy activities.
All of this calls for us to influence policies, to create an enabling and peaceful environment – together with the leadership – to care for the most vulnerable women and children in Somalia.”
While in Bossaso, Mr. Sy also visited a Mother and Child Clinic, located in the IDP settlement \’100 Bush\’. Since malnutrition remains significantly above the emergency threshold in Somalia, UNICEF has been supporting the clinic’s therapeutic feeding programme for severely malnourished children.
Thanks to these interventions acute malnutrition rates of children in the IDP camps decreased from 27% in 2008 to 18% in 2010. UNICEF staff in Bossaso also briefed the Regional Director on efforts to improve maternal and child health through Child Health Days.
The campaign – supported by UNICEF, WHO and NGO partners – aims to reach children under five years of age, twice a year, with a package of high-impact life-saving interventions.