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Somalia: Mogadishu: water for a war-torn city

27-06-1996 News Release 96/25

The Somali capital Mogadishu is a typical example of a war-torn city where access to water has become extremely difficult. " In volatile situations where factions are struggling for control, a water-supply system, such as that in Mogadishu, is a prime target. Gaining control of the water supply means political and military power " , explained Riccardo Conti, head of the ICRC's water and sanitation unit. Pumping stations are vulnerable to attacks and sabotage, and access to them is easier to control since they are far away from where the water is needed. Even where there is no deliberate damage, the vast amount of fuel or power required to run a water station and the lack of funds for spare parts, technical assistance and proper maintenance of the networks are major difficulties.

The ICRC, together with other specialized agencies, has nevertheless managed to stabilize the situation in Mogadishu. Fortunately the town has reserves of groundwater but, since it is on the shore of the Indian Ocean, experienced hydrologists had to plan the tapping of this source very carefully to avoid contamination by the salt water underlying the layer of fresh water.    

Several organizations have been rehabilitating existing boreholes and drilling new ones. The resulting network of boreholes and wells will meet the needs of the city's inhabitants without jeopardizing the future resumption and development of a mains water supply.

" The experience gained in Mogadishu will help the ICRC in other difficult situations and will encourage the donors to support alternative solutions pending the huge investment th at will be required to restore a proper distribution network once peace has returned " , said Riccardo Conti.