In the rural parts of Kismayo District, the main source of water is open shallow wells. For a long time, these water sources were left open with minimal management to ensure optimal use. With most of them silted up, most families were left to walk  over 10 kilometers to access clean water from other wells. In the height of the dry season, most of these wells would dry up, leaving very few options to access safe water.

In partnership with Oxfam, Somali Aid responded to the needs by rehabilitating and protecting 12 shallow wells. These were fitted with hand pumps to allow efficient and hygienic retrieval of water.

Completed well in Kismayo

Fatuma Mohamed face lights up with smile as she discusses the positive changes as she recalls the positive impact the improved shallow wells have had in her community.

“I don’t have to walk for tens of kilometers looking for clean water. Many of us in the community are happy about this. Not only is it closer, it is cleaner. I use it for many things in the house – cooking, drinking, cleaning and other household chores. I see the water being treated regularly, and this reassures me that it stays clean.”

For the larger community at Madowa, the rehabilitated shallow wells have had similar positive impacts; for the women and children, fetching water no longer takes much of their time and is also safe and easy. “We save much of the time for other household duties,” said Heyfa Abdi. “Women and children no longer fear fetching water-the shallow wells rehabilitated inside their community is now safer and in more secure location.”

Water management committees took part in training that strengthened built their capacity and that of community health workers. These groups are responsible for promoting wise use of the water from the shallow wells, increasing awareness of water and sanitation issues and calling the community to action to address sanitation needs.

Sustainable Future

The project encourages sustainability by supporting individual community solutions to water management issues. Rehabilitation and protection of the wells and capacity building of the committees and community health workers is just the beginning. With this firmly in place, the communities of Madowa hold the reins to make their own way.

For Jelani Mohamed, village elder in Madowa, the next step for the community is developing efficient management system to ensure the shallow wells remain reliable water sources. “Good management will help the community put aside some funds that can be used to service the facilities in case of breakdown or repairs required,” he said.

Improving sanitation

Jerry can distribution in Kismayo

The community through the leadership and support of the trained community health workers and village elders will uphold safe sanitation practices. This has already taken shape in the project locations. This has enabled the communities maximize health by improving their own sanitation. In all the villages covered by the project, over 100 households set up new latrines using locally available resources so as to minimize contamination of water in wells and also promote safe environment. “For us, latrines gives privacy and dignity,” explained Khadija Mohamed, “everyone, the males, our mothers and girls are safer using them.’’

Better hygiene and nutrition

Women at the outpatient therapeutic centre (OTP) in Kismayo. The OTP is set up to treat children suffering from severe acute malnutrition – a life-threatening condition.

Just like the water management committees, the community health workers will play a long lasting role. Abdi Bolor, one of the community health workers, discussed the strong linkages between the well maintained shallow wells and promoting community hygiene and nutrition. “As hygiene and nutrition promoters, we ensure safe handling of water at collection point and in households,” she said. “We teach mothers and care givers of young children good feeding habits and hygiene promotion to prevent contamination of water related illnesses.

Mohamed Abdi –Juula at his house in Kismayo.

“I am happy that a latrine was constructed in my compound. It is serving me and my neighbors. Previously, my family and the neighbors had to go to the bush but now things have changed for the better. My father, who is very elderly, is one the family members who really appreciates this.” Says Mahadsanidiiin. Mohamed Abdi –Juula.

“Many people like this idea of constructing latrines in an easy way; I hope more families can put them up.”

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Written by Madete Stella

Stella is Programme Information Officer for Oxfam in Somalia. She is based in Nairobi

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