Water scarcity in Tog-Wajale, a town straddling the border between northwest Somalia's self-declared republic of Somaliland and Ethiopia, is threatening the health and livelihoods of locals who cannot afford to buy it.
"One barrel of water [200 litres] was only 20 [Ethiopian] birr [US$1], but the price has now reached about 50 Ethiopian birr [$2.5]," said Ahmed Jama Weirah, a father of seven in Tog-Wajale. "We can't provide for our families... because our earnings are not enough to provide food and water."
The Somaliland side of Tog-Wajale has had no official water supply since 1995, following the closure of the town's only well, which had fallen into disrepair. The town's main water sources are a seasonal river that acts as the border between Somaliland and Ethiopia, and expensive pumped water from Ethiopia.
"Now the [river] water is over and we can't afford to buy imported water," said Weirah.
"While livestock have been moved further north where they can find water, townsfolk face water scarcity," said Abdillahi Omar, a resident. "Some families use less than 20 litres per day to cook meals, and they don't take a bath for several days."
Local officials told IRIN they hoped the rains would start soon, but were focusing on long-term solutions.
The dysfunctional well used to supply less than 2,000 litres of water a day, so repairing it would not provide sufficient water for the town’s estimated 40,000 people (up from 10,000 in 1995), said Hashi Mohamed Abdi, the mayor of Tog-Wajale.
Currently about 20,000 litres are pumped from Ethiopia every day, “which is not enough", he said, adding that water was also trucked in from Kalabiat and Gabiley to the northeast of Tog-Wajale.
However, the future looks brighter as the European Union (EU) has agreed to fund a water project in the town.
The EU is funding water projects in several Somaliland towns, including Hargeisa, Burao, Erigavo and Tog-Wajale; the Tog-Wajale water project is due for completion in 2015.