Water scarcity in the southern Somali city of Baidoa has become critical over the past few weeks, with residents of urban areas and the surrounding camps for internally displaced families all relying on a single well.
Three of the four main wells serving Baidoa have failed due to significantly reduced water levels.
Every day, donkey carts and people with jerry cans crowd round the water point, spending many hours waiting their turn at the single pipe that is left working.
Houses in the neighbourhoods with piped water are facing water rationing and receive water only at certain times.
Abdi Mohamed Hussein, who lives in Salaamay IDP camp on the outskirts of town, spends most of his time fetching water for his family. This father of 10 works in construction but has not been able to go to the building sites for work recently as he spends so much time fetching water.
“We have been greatly troubled here. In the last three days I have arrived here in the morning and left at four in the afternoon,” he told Radio Ergo’s local correspondent, whilst standing line with three jerry cans to fill. The family was displaced from Ufurow area, 150 km from Baidoa. Abdi’s wife has stepped up for the family needs and collects firewood to earn some income for their survival.
The wells used to be managed by the former central government’s water department. In more recent times they have been run by private businessmen, who charge for water. Water prices have surged and poor families in the camps have been particularly hard hit.
The price of a 20-litre water storage container has risen from 2,000 to 5,000 Somali shillings.
At the height of the drought last year, a water truck from the South West State authority used to deliver free water to the IDP camps. A 90 litre tank sold for less than $1 but now costs at least three times that amount.
Fowsi Abdinur, a specialist in agriculture and environment, said the failed rains and drought have spread across the region. At the same time, the population has swollen dramatically with the influx of thousands of displaced families fleeing drought and conflict.
There are over 327 IDP camps in Baidoa and its environs.
Fowsi said upgrading the well and training for people running the systems was a priority. The local administration, which currently lacks the capacity and finances to run the system, should also plan to construct new wells to avert a health crisis.
The minister of energy and water resources in South West state administration, Aadan Hassan Mohamed, told Radio Ergo they had plans to renovate the wells by drilling them deeper. They also planned construction of new wells and water storage facilities at strategic points in the region to address the water problems.