By Ayuko Matsuhashi
Gashamo Woreda, Somali REGION, 6 September 2017 – What if you are told that the water you would have daily for drinking, cooking and bathing is rain-dependent and dries up into a muddy puddle during eight out of the 12 months of the year?
For the lucky ones, life without water is unthinkable. Sadly enough, this still remains a daily life reality in arid and semi-arid areas in Ethiopia.
A shortage of water in Somali region has been devastating due to the ongoing multi-year drought. While climate resilient water source development is a key to mitigate negative impacts of the drought, the majority of the population in Somali region is still dependent on seasonal water harvesting ponds. Farah Abdulahi is a 34 year old single mother of four who has become an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) in Gashamo IDP site from a village which is 15km away. “I came here because I have lost all of my 150 goats and sheep since the onset of the drought,” Farah said. Several hydro-geological complications and costly investments have prevented the WASH sector from actively investing in drilling a deep borehole in the region whereas surface water sources are highly vulnerable to drought and put people at a greater risk. “I used to fetch water from birkas*. But they all dried up because there had been no rain,” Farah describes her life in the previous village before she was displaced. “Thanks to the humanitarian aid providing water at this IDP site, we are barely surviving.”
Ahmed Hussein Brerale, 57 years old, is one of the community elders in Haji Dereye kebele (sub-district) near Gashamo town. As a long time resident of Haji Dereye, he has witnessed the dreadful decrease of water in the area and says, “There is no borehole in this area. We heard that the nearest borehole is 78km away and is the only potable water source in this large woreda (district). What we have here is only seasonal water sources like birkas. As the last two rain seasons failed, the available volume of water in birkas has significantly decreased. We are worried.”
In order to provide access to potable water for children and women such as Farah and her children, UNICEF Ethiopia has started drilling a new borehole near Gashamo town in partnership with a private sector partner with financial support from the Government of Japan’s emergency grant aid for the Middle East and Africa region for emergencies since August 2017. The drilling site was carefully located by using hydro-geological data from satellites in close collaboration with the Somali Regional State Water Bureau. According to the satellite data, the estimated depth of finding an aquifer is at around 500-600 metres. So far one-fourth of the planned depth has been achieved. Since there is no alternative safe and reliable water source in the area, this new borehole is going to be an ‘oasis in the desert’. Although this drilling work is one of the UNICEF’s emergency projects, in a longer term the project will also bring a sustainable solution for the area which is high vulnerability to climate change. The borehole is expected to provide clean water directly to 11,000 – 25,000 people in Gashamo town with a potential to indirect beneficiaries who are passing by from surrounding areas in search of water.
“I heard about the new borehole drilling. I am looking forward to seeing clean water. That has been always my dream to have clean water nearby in my life,” says Farah with a smile on her face.
UNICEF will keep working together with the regional water bureau to ensure that people who have been living without reliable water sources get sustainable access to potable water without interruption.
*Birka – A traditional water harvesting pond which collects run-off water when it rains.