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Clean Water, Sanitation Services Bring Peace, Social Harmony to Rural Somalia

Camels drinking from the constructed animal trough at Miir Jiicley district, Galmudug region, Somalia


“Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink,” says English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Both the government and people of Somalia, perhaps more than any other people around the world, would agree with this poem.  Indeed, water is life.

In Somalia, an arid nation in the Horn of Africa, lack of potable water and sanitation has historically been a challenge for urban and rural folks. Most of them have also had to endure famine and lingering effects of a battered economy struggling to exit a protracted civil war, terrorism and piracy, post-war communal conflicts and political instability.

A three-year (...)project of the African Development Bank (which commenced in 2017) to improve access to water and sanitation services in the rural areas of Somalia is poised to change the water picture of the region for good, reviving the fortunes of rural economies and ushering a new era of peace and social harmony to the Somali countryside.

Working with the Somali national government, local authorities and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN agency responsible for global migration, the African Development Bank through this project seeks to address the immediate water and sanitation needs of rural areas while simultaneously building community resilience to withstand future drought and environmental related shocks. The positive improvement in the country’s human development index  is expected to be long lasting. 

The Federal Republic of Somalia, as the country is officially known, has the longest coastline on Africa's mainland. Climatically, hot conditions prevail year-round, with periodic monsoon winds and irregular rainfall.

The UN reports that as at 2017 nearly 6.2 million people in Somalia required humanitarian assistance due to the pandemic drought and an ongoing conflict. This has led to disease outbreaks and massive displacement of communities, with families compelled to migrate from their homes and farmsteads to congested settlements for internally displaced persons (IDPs), often without basic services.

Acknowledging the positive effect of the project on the communities, and the strong partnership and ongoing collaboration between the government of Somalia, IOM and the African Development Bank, Salimo Aloi Ibro, Somalia’s Minister for Energy and Water Resources said: “The ministry has worked closely with the IOM and the African Development Bank since the conceptualization of this project. We were involved in developing the concept note, project appraisals, and creation of all the key project documents. In the future, we are hoping that IOM and the Bank can help us scale up activities in Kismayo, Baidoa, Afgoye and Jowhar – places where the needs on the ground far outstretch available resources.”

In Bohol village, Xalwo Shire Aden who sells flour cakes (Bur xabaal) to itinerant traders and pastoralists for a living had to flee the drought in her countryside home last year for her present abode, 34 kilometres north of Dhusamareb, the capital of the Galgadud region. The mother of eight children chose to live in Bohol as an IDP so she could have  access to clean, safe water and aid agencies. She credits the Bank’s water projects for providing Bohol and adjoining villages with potable water with the resultant boost to her family’s health and lifestyle choices, and the domestic livestock and agrarian economy.

Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Guardafui Channel and Indian Ocean to the east, and Kenya to the sout…

John Sifuma, a Water and Sanitation Specialist at African Development Bank says: “The project falls under the fifth High 5 priority of the Bank (Improve quality of life for the people of Africa) and is aligned to Somalia’s National Development Plan. The Bank will continue working closely with the Federal Government of Somalia to support implementation of the government’s development agenda.”

“The Bank is responding to the challenge of supporting inclusive growth, and the transition to green growth, by scaling up investments and implementation of its ten-year strategy ….” Sifuma further observes.  

According to Dyane Epstein, the IOM Somalia Chief of Mission: “This project endeavours to improve the quality of life for an estimated 175,000 Somalis. As solutions to sustainable water provision and infrastructure are developed, other socio-economic activities will also flourish. This includes the rearing of livestock, which remains the main source of livelihoods for the majority of this project’s beneficiaries.’’ 



The objectives of the project:

Improving access to water and sanitation services in rural areas of Somalia

Reducing infant and child mortality caused by water-borne diseases

Eradicating water-borne diseases

Improving the technical capacity of local administrators to manage water infrastructure

Promoting sustainable water management practices, solutions, systems and structures 

Building resiliency into water systems / structures so they can withstand future drought and environmental shocks


Sanitation standards have improved significantly.

Peace and social harmony. The eradication of communal conflicts.

Communal Commitment. The modus operandi of this particular project by the Bank has ensured that Somalis have embraced and taken ownership of the water projects and facilities. 

Availability of clean, safe water has been a boost to livelihoods and rural economies.

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