Mogadishu, 22 March 2021 – On the occasion of World Water Day, I wish to call for urgent action to prevent a catastrophe in Somalia. Drought is looming in the country and at least 3.4 million people are projected to be affected this year. Already, over 83,300 Somalis have been displaced by water shortages and dry conditions in the last four months.
Extreme dry conditions and water scarcity are reported in 34 districts; the worst affected areas being Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle and Jubaland. The unfolding water crisis in Somalia is a stark reminder that we urgently need long-term sustainable development solutions to complement humanitarian action and address the root causes of recurrent climatic shocks in Somalia.
Over the last 10 years, access to and use of safe drinking water and sanitation has significantly improved in Somalia. Over half of the Somali population had basic access to safe drinking water in 2019, compared to 20 per cent in 2010. Despite this progress, much more remains to be done.
Somalia did not achieve the Millennium Development Goals on water and is behind on its progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. About 23 per cent of rural Somalis drink unimproved or unprotected water and five per cent drink purely surface water. Somalia is the only country in the world with a gap exceeding 50 points between urban and rural use of water services. The situation is particularly challenging for women and children, particularly girls. Scarcity increases the care burden required to collect water, as well as risk of abuse and gender-based violence.
In 2021, we expect water scarcity to escalate the risk of communicable disease outbreaks such as acute watery diarrhoea, increase the vulnerability of already at-risk populations and aggravate food insecurity. Without sustained humanitarian assistance, an estimated 2.65 million Somalis are expected to face crisis or worse levels of food insecurity through June due to forecasted below-average rainfall.
Water challenges in Somalia oscillate between water shortages and drought-like conditions, and flash floods and river breakages. We need to bolster efforts to provide communities access to sustainable and climate-resilient water services. This means investing in short, medium and long-term solutions that withstand climate shocks, operate using low carbon energy sources, and strengthen resilience and adaptive capacities.
I call on Somalia’s authorities, with support of partners and donors, to lead on instituting solutions around sustainable water management to break the cyclical pattern of water crises in the country. Furthermore, I urge donors to ensure adequate funding for immediate life-saving water and sanitation interventions.