How clean water has changed the lives of displaced families in Somalia

Water system in Horseed IDP settlement of Hodan district, Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo: Oxfam

Zahra Abdi, a mother of five children, has been living in Horseed Internally Displaced Persons' (IDP) settlement of Hodan district in Mogadishu, Somalia, for the last three years. 

“In the beginning here, I remember facing a number of challenges. First there was lack of water and in addition, there was no water source near the camp. Every morning I would trek a distance of about 1 kilometre to buy water and I could only afford to buy one or two jerry-cans of water per day, an amount which was far below my household water requirements,” describes Zahra.

Conflicts over water resources

Life was very difficult. People used to fetch contaminated water from a shallow well 1 Kilometre away from their makeshift shelters. Every woman and child in the camp had to do so. They used to pay 1,000 Somalia Shillings (0.05 USD) per 20 litre jerry-can of poorly handled water.

On the other hand, conflicts over fetching water were a major threat for displaced people. Skirmishes, which were sometimes violent ones, were usually over which group of IDPs would be first in line to fetch water and which group will be last.

Accessible and safe water saves lives

As a result of a water and sanitation project developed by HIJRA in partnership with Oxfam, clean water is now available in the IDP camps. This means a reduced risk of illnesses and less time away from work for the adults and from school for the children.

The difference made by this project to people’s lives is profound and visible. It saves lives. Clean drinking water allows IDPs to be more secure and frees women to work or care for their children.

“Chlorinated clean drinking water is now accessible near my shelter. Currently, I fetch at least five jerry-cans of water – which is a total of 100 litres of water per day. For me and for my family of five, life has changed. Access to water is no longer difficult. From the savings I made of Somali Shillings 3,000 a day, I started small trade selling food stuffs and vegetable on top of a small table. I view our future with lots of optimism and encouragement,” says Zahra.