A women collects water in Southwest Somalia. Action Against Hunger is working in the region to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

The ripple effects of improved access to water and toilets

In rural Somalia, new latrines and wells are helping to reduce hunger, waterborne diseases and gender-based violence.

By Action Against Hunger

Jun 10 2019

In southwest Somalia, clean water and decent toilets are a rare luxury. Prolonged conflict and drought have also forced thousands of people to flee their homes in search of safety and too many people find themselves in areas lacking basic water and sanitation.

A lack of clean water and good hygiene can lead to child hunger. In fact, half of child malnutrition is related to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Without clean water, illnesses like diarrhoea are common. They can prevent children from absorbing key nutrients and make them more vulnerable to other health issues.

A lack of toilets both at home and in community spaces like schools and health centres also leads to open defecation – which can result in cholera and other diseases that contribute to malnutrition.

Action Against Hunger’s teams are working tirelessly to improve access to clean water, safe sanitation and healthy hygiene. We’re building and repairing wells, constructing latrines and educating community members on the importance of handwashing and clean water. The impact extends far beyond health and nutrition.

A woman collects water from a pump in Southwest Somalia. Action Against Hunger is working to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene in the region.

 

Improving safety for women and girls

In many areas, women have to walk for miles to find a safe place to relieve themselves or wait until dusk to go to the toilet outside.

“It’s a dangerous affair for women. You are not sure who is out there at night,” says Fadumo, who lives in a displacement camp.

“Lack of access to sanitation robs you of your dignity,” adds Mumina, an Action Against Hunger community hygiene volunteer.

In recent assessments across five villages, Action Against Hunger found just 17% of household in this area of Somalia have access to toilets. In and around the village of Yeed, our teams have constructed 25 new latrines – and women in the community are already seeing the benefits.

“I don’t have to stress about looking for a safe place to relieve myself, and I save a lot of time because the latrines are nearby,” says Amina Abdi, mother of six.

Mumina washes her hands outside a latrine in rural Somalia. Action Against Hunger is working in the region to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

 

Local materials and man power

In the village of Washaqo, Action Against Hunger worked with residents to build an additional ten latrines with materials from the local area. Since their completion, the community has recorded an 18% decrease in open defecation.

Mohamed Takal Noor, a village elder, was proud that his community was so highly involved in their construction. He is now encouraging neighbouring villages to build latrines using local material and to encourage community members to help with excavation.

A new latrine in Washaqo, Somalia. Action Against Hunger is working in the region to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

To make sure the latrines remain in good condition for years to come, Action Against Hunger’s community hygiene volunteers train residents about maintenance.

 

Long-term impact on health and nutrition

Community volunteers also help spread the word about good hygiene habits. After receiving training from our team, Bisharo Muhamed has put her knowledge into action and has been urging her neighbours to do the same.

“After my family started using the latrine, there was less illness – especially among the children,” she says. “Now I don’t have to spend most of my income on healthcare.”

The message about water, sanitation and hygiene is also resonating within Action Against Hunger’s health and nutrition centres. Raxo Ahmed brought her youngest daughter Aisha, to a nearby centres where she was diagnosed with the deadliest form of hunger – severe acute malnutrition.

After her daughter received treatment and recovered, Raxo learned about good hygiene and health practices. She now believes a lack of access to clean water is a major factor contributing to malnutrition in her village.

A nurse checks up on Aisha at a stabilisation centre in rural Somalia. Action Against Hunger is working to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene in the region - one of the major causes of malnutrition.

Raxo has also learnt some simple tips to keep family safe from disease, including household water storage, boiling water, handwashing and proper disposal of waste.

“I will put into practice what I learnt at the centre and I will teach my neighbours so they can benefit from having clean water in their homes too,” she says.

 

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Banner image: Action Against Hunger/ Khadija Farah

All other images: Action Against Hunger/ Fardosa Hussein