Coca-Cola Provided Clean Water for 50,000 Internally Displaced People in Somaliland

Somaliland is a self-declared sovereign state and is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia, a country that has been in a civil war since 1991. Just six kilometers southwest of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, lies Ayaha. Here, more than 50,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and refugees live in makeshift, destitute squalor. The area is divided into four quarters: Ayaha I, II, III and IV.

In spite of extensive support from the local municipality and several international and local development agencies, there is no water supply system in place. This is not unusual in Somaliland, where most urban centers suffer chronic water shortages and where the local water agencies rarely meet demand. Much of the population, living in impoverished and peripheral areas, has to buy water from water trucks at exorbitant prices.

Now, things are looking up for the people of Ayaha – thanks to a year-long partnership between the Hargeisa Water Agency (HWA), the Somaliland Ministry of Water Resources, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, the European Union, UNICEF, Somaliland Beverage Industries (SBI) and Terre Solidali. A low-cost, efficient and safe water storage and distribution system has been installed, featuring water-vending kiosks, helping for the very first time to secure Ayaha’s essential human right of clean drinking water.

 “It is great to see a community drink clean and cheap water for the first time,” said Moustapha Osman, COO of Somaliland Beverage Industries, as he beamed with pride at the role his company played in the project. “They used to pay about 1,500 Somaliland Shillings for a 20 liter jerry can of water. And now, with the help of the RAIN project, they are paying 250.”

The water is sold through three kiosks that RAIN has funded. The kiosks are connected to a centrally located reservoir which is connected to an aquifer six kilometers away. The first phase of the project will reach Ayaha III, with future projects aiming to extend coverage to Ayaha I, II and IV. The local water agency, the HWA, manages the project and its operations. Operating the kiosks themselves provides another bonus to the community, as well: critical jobs, which in many cases are being filled by eager and capable women.

“We never used to get enough water because it was very expensive,” said Safia Yusuf Isse, one of the kiosk operators. “This new kiosk will have a huge impact.  As mothers, we only used to get water from the tankers if we had large tanks of our own.  Now, we can get the water we need at a price we can afford.”

This kind of victory for Ayaha didn’t come easily. The entire project owes its success to an “extremely engaged network of partners,” noted Monica Ellis, CEO of GETF. “From the Hargeisa Water Agency to Terre Solidali [the implementing partner] to SBI, each organization has come together with their unique strengths to make a positive difference for the people of Ayaha.”

The obstacles overcome were more than merely logistical, financial or engineering related – the team also had to win the downtrodden community’s trust, said Osman.

“We needed to dig a six km trench to lay the pipe that would bring life-giving water to Ayaha,” he said. “One of the biggest challenges we faced was to persuade the many private landowners that claimed the land on which the trench was dug, to allow digging through 'their' land. We succeeded with strong collaboration between the Hargeisa Water Agency, local elders, and local imams.”

With projects already launched in 36 of Africa’s 55 countries, RAIN is continuing toward its goal of providing safe drinking water to two million people across Africa.

For Osman, the goal is to continue expanding the project, securing more and more people’s unalienable right to clean water.  RAIN Somaliland serves as a prime example of The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and SBI’s commitment to Somaliland, fostering a potentially bright future of growth, prosperity and peace.

“Hargeisa has a population of about 1 million, and roughly half of those people do not have access to water mains,” said Osman, noting how much work remains ahead. “I’d like to help to bring clean water to more of these people.”

The success of the project is summed up best by Fadumo Ali, a local woman who now runs one of the kiosks. "We used to spend a large portion of our little income on water and my daughters spent hours every week, particularly during the dry seasons, collecting water. Now, thanks to RAIN and the other NGOs, that is all behind us. Alhamdulilah (thank God).”