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Water & war: Life is tough in Somalia, but it is getting better all the time

Dawud Abdirahman's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية

Children in Somalia

​As I made my way to the mosque, I started to think about how violence has defined my country.  Most intractable conflicts have been caused by a lack of basic resources: water, food, fertile land. Somalia is no different.
We have a large nomadic population, and climate is a life system for many. Severe droughts interrupted by devastating floods occur frequently. Water can be as precious as gold and praying for rain is not uncommon.
Sharing water can create solidary and unity, but it can also cause bloodshed. It is one of the oldest causes of conflict; often a small clash between two people over water can erupt into years of bloody violence between clans or communities. People mobilise their clan to get the resources necessary for survival; particularly when wells and rivers run dry.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture


World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Democracy, voting and public opinion in the Arab world: New research evidence
Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard University
In 2002 the United Nations issued a much-discussed report highlighting the lack of progress in Arab countries relative to other developing regions, and there has continued to be scrutiny of various social, political and economic indicators there. But a combination of closed regimes, highly nuanced cultural norms and burgeoning areas of conflict often make it difficult to interpret complex political trends and events. The available data relating to perceived changes in public attitudes must be read carefully, with the conflicting results of the 2011 Arab Spring standing as a stark reminder of this complexity. Still, a variety of studies published in 2015 help shed light on emerging trends relating to elections and public opinion in the Arab world, which continues to go through a state of upheaval and transition. Interpreting voter intentions, attitudes and outcomes is particularly difficult in regimes that are neither fully democratic nor totalitarian: Where citizens are not necessarily forced to participate, and yet many turn out to vote despite the fact that the process is highly unlikely to influence the ultimate outcome of the election. A 2015 study published in the journal Comparative Political Studies, “Elections in the Arab World: Why Do Citizens Turn Out?” seeks to explain voter turnout in such situations under authoritarian regimes in Arab countries.
Open data ‘not enough to improve lives’
Governments in developing countries must ensure the statistics they publish can be used to improve citizens’ lives, practitioners told SciDev.Net following an open data meeting. Liz Carolan, the international development manager at host organisation the Open Data Institute (ODI), said countries should instead start with real-world problems and then work out how data can be part of the solution. “A government might say: ‘We put the data on the web, that’s enough’ — but it’s not,” she said. “You could not get away with that”, especially in countries where internet connectivity and literacy are low and it is difficult for people to access the data in the first place.  Ivy Ong, outreach lead at government data provider Open Data Philippines, added: “Do not be blinded by the bright and shiny milestone of developing and launching an open data portal.”

Campaign Art: Water is... Life

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Did you know that more people in rural India have access to phones than to safe drinking water? It is estimated that only 18% of the total rural population of 833 million have access to safe, treated water while 41% of the rural population, or 346 million people, own mobile phones.
While access to drinking water in India has increased over the past decade, the tremendous adverse impact of unsafe water on health continues. Every year, about 600,000 Indian children die because of diarrhea or pneumonia, often caused by toxic water and poor hygiene, according to Unicef.

Likewise, did you know that more than 40% of Ghana's 25 million people lack access to safe water. Due to drinking contaminated water, diarrheal disease is the third most commonly reported illness at health centers across the country and 25% of all deaths in children under the age of five are attributed to diarrhea.
Clearly, water is a ticket to better health. This short video from the Safe Water Network provides insight into what water is and how important it is to community and individual health outcomes through a succession of images and statements. The music was written and performed by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club.

VIDEO: Water is...


Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The surprising benefits of autocratic elections
Washington Post
After a bitterly contested election campaign and several controversial postponements, Muhammadu Buhari engineered an upset of Nigeria’s incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, the country’s first-ever case of electoral turnover. Legislative elections will follow on April 11, while two other African countries, Sudan and Togo, are also scheduled to hold elections over the next two weeks. Besides the coincidence in electoral timing, these countries share another surprising link—all three are generally recognized as autocracies. The marriage of autocracy with contested elections is, in fact, the norm nowadays. All but five autocracies have held a national election since 2000, with about three in four allowing multiparty competition. What makes these regimes autocratic is that the elections fail to meet democratic standards, typically with state power being used to favor the ruling party.
Cellphones for Women in Developing Nations Aid Ascent From Poverty
New York Times
Here is what life is like for a woman with no bank account in a developing country. She keeps her savings hidden — in pots, under mattresses, in fields. She constantly worries about thieves. She may even worry about her husband taking cash she has budgeted for their children’s needs. Sending money to a family member in another village is risky and can take days. Obtaining a loan in an emergency is often impossible. An unexpected expense can mean she has to pull a child out of school or sell a cow the family relies on for income. Or, worse, it can mean she must give birth at home without medical assistance because she doesn’t have the money for a ride to a clinic. In ways big and small, life without access to financial services is more difficult, expensive and dangerous. It constrains a woman’s ability to plan for her family’s future. At the community level, it traps households in cycles of poverty. More broadly, it limits the economic growth potential of developing countries.

The Things We Do: Shame is a Powerful Thing

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Billions of dollars are spent each year on sanitation, healthcare, and good governance, but the results vary quite a bit from place to place.  What separates successful programs from the unsuccessful?
Those that achieve their goals try to change behavior alongside introducing new methods or making investments. One way to change behavior is to use shame— an overwhelmingly negative emotion —to emotionally link individuals to the communities in which they live.
Shame and Sanitation

Shame was, in fact, a central ingredient to a program in Bangladesh that reduced the percentage of Bangladeshis defecating out in the open from 19% in 2000 to only 3% in 2012.

The program utilized the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) method, which “focuses on instigating a change in sanitation behaviour rather than constructing sanitation infrastructure.” Changes in sanitation behaviors are accomplished through a process of deliberation and discussion within communities to build consensus on the need to end open defecation and clarify the hazards that open defecation poses.

Campaign Art: Kick Off Your Birthday by Bringing Fresh Water to the Sahel

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

charity: water, launched its annual "September Campaign" this month in which the organization selects a country or region for targeted support. This year, the Sahel region was chosen, and the September Campaign seeks to bring clean water to 100,000 people of Mali and Niger that are living in the strip of land between the Sahara desert to the north and the Sudanian Savannah to the south.  The area is frequently affected by drought and famine, and access to clean water is rare.

Unlike other nonprofits that speak about the organization and mission first, charity: water puts their supporters at the center of their communications and empowers them to tell personal stories and fundraise individually, using a method known as inbound marketing. Inbound marketing promotes an organization through blogs, video, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, and other forms of content marketing which attract the attention of key audiences and draw people to their website. By contrast, buying attention through advertisements, cold-calling, direct paper mail, and radio, are considered "outbound marketing."

Central to their inbound marketing method, charity: water appeals to supporters to start 'your own campaign.' The website offers visitors the ability to, "start a fundraising campaign and bring clean drinking water to people in need around the world." The personalized and social nature of the campaign allows people to share their own stories and encourage friends and followers to do the same. Supporters have been creative with their campaigns, starting birthday fundraisers, running marathons, and welcoming newborns with donations.


Sanitation For All: Ignore Quality at Your Own Peril

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

The excellently named Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (R.I.C.E) recently published an equally excellently named survey – the SQUAT (Sanitation Quality, Use, Access and Trends) survey. Based on the findings of this survey conducted in five north Indian states, R.I.C.E calls for a latrine use revolution - since the bottleneck is not the non-availability of a latrine (since even those with a government latrine are not using them), nor is it lack of funds (since far poorer countries and communities have built and used latrine). It is an issue of messaging around hygiene, towards which we need to set our firm focus.

My first job in the development sector was with an NGO, Gram Vikas in Odisha and my experience there has shaped many of my core beliefs about working in this sector. At the core of Gram Vikas' work was the conviction that the 'poor can and will pay for quality services'. So when I think toilets (not latrines – and there is a key difference in the definition), I often use the 'quality' lens and make the argument about how the usage of physical facilities installed by projects has a direct link with what community perception of what counts as good quality. This also has a strong link with the extent to which they feel a sense of ownership for the facility.

Development Challenges for Participatory Public Delivery of Underground Water in Rural India

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

India’s rapidly industrializing economy and urbanizing society pose a daunting challenge towards augmenting the limited supply of water resources.  No wonder that conflicts over competing uses and users of water, especially in rural areas, are growing by the day. Agriculture, that uses eighty percent of the water resources with low efficiency, is a case in point. Falling water table due to deep drilling and groundwater contamination through discharge of untreated effluents is a serious problem. Therefore, in context of the climate change effects that continue to upset weather patterns, efficient underground water management is extremely critical for 200 million hectares of rainfed areas. This, infact, constitutes 62% of the geographical area of the country with the largest concentration of rural poverty spanning several agro ecological regions.

Since groundwater, as a common pool resource, also accounts for nearly two- thirds of India’s irrigation water needs, there is a dire need for a participatory approach to make its sustainable management more effective. It is interesting to highlight that while groundwater resources are perceived as a part of specific geographic and administrative formations- watersheds, landscapes, river basins, villages, blocks, districts and states, they are seldom placed in the context of aquifers- rock formations that are capable of storing and transmitting the same.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Three reasons investors are beginning to take sustainability seriously
The Guardian
Most of the ingredients for a healthy, secure, and fulfilling existence come to us from nature. Food, clean water, pollination, and natural hazard protection are all essential goods and services that underpin our economy and secure our wellbeing. But business models that exploit these benefits unsustainably are intensifying pressure on our planet's natural resources, putting their future – and ours – in jeopardy. How can we relieve this pressure before it is too late? As a first step, we need to recognise that rapidly declining natural systems are bad news for business. There is a two-way street between the economy and the environment: businesses damage the environment, and the damaged environment then creates risks to the bottom lines of businesses. But why should members of the investment community care?

Does transparency improve governance? Reviewing evidence from 16 experimental evaluations
Journalist's Resource- Harvard Kennedy School
The idea that transparency can make institutions more effective and provide greater accountability and better results for the public seems uncontroversial on the surface. But scholars and bureaucrats who have been involved in the wave of transparency initiatives over the past decade continue to debate the particular merits of various approaches. Some commentators have been troubled that as a reaction to scrutiny, malfeasance and inefficiency could increasingly be kept hidden and transparency could erode public trust in institutions and personal privacy. The many types of transparency initiatives around the globe are often confused, making sharp distinctions all the more essential.

Campaign Art: The Power of Water

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Globally, unclean water and a lack of sanitation pose significant risks to the health and wellbeing of people as well as to efforts to end extreme poverty and disease in the world’s poorest countries. 

The following video by illustrates the tragic nature of the water crisis and their drive for new solutions, financing models, and greater transparency.

The Power of Water