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Somali children have little to cheer about as world marks Water Day
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

NAIROBI, 20 March 2009 – The International community and Somalis need to ensure peace and stability in the country to enable the provision of adequate supplies of clean drinking water for more children and women, UNICEF Somalia Representative, Christian Balslev-Olesen said today in the run-up to the marking of World Water Day on Sunday 22 March.

Currently,  only about 29% of the population in Somalia has access to clean drinking  water  and 37 per cent to sanitary means of excreta disposal. The destruction  and  looting  of  water supply infrastructure during the civil war,  the  continuing conflict and other environmental problems are another hindrance.

“The  challenge  of delivering water to Somalis is the challenge of getting the  country  back  to a peaceful path. With stability, a great deal can be achieved  in  ensuring  more  people  have access to better services. While financial  and  technical  resources could be available to ensure supplies, insecurity  hinders  the  effort, “said Mr Balslev-Olesen. “Water has to be more than a pipe dream for Somalis, it has to be part of the reality.”

One  of the impacts of lack of access to water and sanitation services is a high  rate of water-related diseases such as diarrhea, (including cholera), which accounts for about 20% of the country’s under five mortality.

To  redress the situation, UNICEF and other aid agencies have been involved in  the  provision  of  adequate  support  to the sector in rural and urban settings through operations and maintenance of facilities; construction and rehabilitation  of water and sanitation systems; training of communities to sustain  the  operations  of  these  systems;  promotion of correct hygiene practices  amongst  the public and in schools;  construction of latrines in schools and health facilities and capacity-building support for local water management  institutions.  Between now and next year, UNICEF is expected to complete  construction and extension of six urban water systems expected to supply clean drinking water to 162,000 people.

 “World  Water  Days  should  give  Somali  children  and women a chance to celebrate  gains  in  access.  However,  this  is  not  always  the case as insecurity  not  only  prevents  progress but reverses it. People living in previously served areas have ended up being displaced,” said UNICEF Somalia Chief  of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) section, Zaid Jurji. “A case in  point  is the displacement of about 400,000 people from Mogadishu since 2007  to  the  Afgoye  corridor south of the city. The persons who moved to Afgoye  did  not  have access to adequate water and sanitation until UNICEF and  other  aid  agencies  stepped in to provide supplies through trucking.

Gradually  this  is being replaced by more permanent supply systems for the displaced people.”  

Much more needs to be done to ensure that children and women have access to a  sustainable  supply of clean water. This will reduce the time and energy that  girls  and women in particular have to spend traveling  long distances to  fetch  water.  It will improve the attendance and attention of girls in school and enable mothers to spend more time with their families.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.