In the Horn of Africa, millions of people face each day without knowing if they will have clean water to drink or food to eat. This uncertainty about access to the basic essentials of life stunts security and growth, and affects all people from young to old.

American assistance to the Horn of Africa is beginning to make a difference, however, and in this series about water security in the Horn, we will showcase how water projects are helping people gain predictable access to clean water as a first step to gaining a foothold on a better life.

Water Filters Save Lives in Somalia
Lainie Reisman and George Mwangi of Education Development Center, Inc.

In the midst of the severe drought in Somalia, access to safe water remains an urgent human need for millions of people. One of the programs that is making a difference is a USAID-funded effort that gives Somali youth an opportunity to earn money while increasing access to safe drinking water. The program, called “Shaqodoon” in Somali, is run by Biofit, a local Somali non-governmental organization, in partnership with the U.S.-based Education Development Center. More than 350 Somali youth have participated so far by launching their own businesses to manufacture and sell long-lasting water treatment filters that are easy to use and affordable for community members.

Mohamed and Said are two young people in the Bari region who have benefitted from the program. After receiving training, they formed a team, believing that by working together they could produce higher quality units. According to Mohamed and Said, “Our target is to manufacture four units per month, and make a net income of $100.” Mohamed proudly noted that they have already received three orders from one community, and they are expecting more orders to come in.

Families benefit from the filters because they provide a sustainable, and less expensive, source of clean water. Karon, a 37-year-old mother living with her three children in Camp Tawakal, a camp for internally displaced persons in Bossaso, became one of the first to use the Biofit filters. With water a precious commodity in the camps, Karon used to buy 12 liters of purified water a day from local factories so that her children would not suffer the grave consequences of drinking contaminated water. But the costs of purchasing water were high—nearly 20 percent of her total income—so she invested in the water filter and expects to pay off the costs within three months. This filter gives her a reliable source of clean water for her children while also helping the youth businesses in the community.

The “Shaqodoon” program is an example of how American assistance supports local investment and solutions while providing critical support to the most needy.