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Water becomes scarce and costly in Jigjiga, Somali region

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File Photo/Ergo

(ERGO) – Shamis Ali Mohamed, a widowed mother of seven, has been unable to buy water for her family since prices rose three to four times, from under a dollar to $3.5-$4 a barrel.

For two weeks, she has been living on a 20-litre jerry can of water that she collects from better off neighbours in Jigjiga, capital of Ethiopia’s Somali region.

“We beg from our neighbours, some give us five litres of water, others three litres, and that is how we get to survive,” she said.

Shamis sells vegetables on the side of the road, making half to one dollar a day. A 20-litre jerry can of water sells at $0.4 – close to her daily earnings.

She feels that she and her children are at risk during the COVID19 pandemic because they do not have adequate water to spare for hygiene purposes.

According to officials at Jigjiga city water department, the water shortage has been caused by the lack of water in the city wells in this harsh dry season, and the depletion of water in a storage reservoir. The reservoir was a source of affordably priced water delivered by tankers to city residents.

Maryama Abdi Yussuf, a mother of 13, who sells plastic bags in the market, said well water was not available even if you had money to buy it. She was forced to buy her children bottled water to drink on two days in the past week.

“I had the money, but there was no one to sell me water. We request our state government to help us get water!” said Maryama.

She earns about a dollar a day, whilst her husband contributes about $2 from his tailoring work in the market.

Maryama said her children’s school uniform had not been washed for two weeks, as the hiked prices meant they could only buy water for cooking and drinking.

“At least our family gets $3 a day, but there are families that don’t earn even one dollar a day. How will such families afford water?” She asked.

“It is time the government showed mercy to us and helped us with water as soon as possible,” she added.

The water authority told Radio Ergo that they are not in a position to help the residents.

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