UN World Food Programme

IT Expert Keeps The Lights On In Somalia

Cyprien Hiniolwa, Head of IT for Somalia, has devised a filtering system that cleans diesel fuel before it reaches the generator (Copyright: WFP/ Mariko Hall).

WFP staff in Somalia depend on generators for power, but poor-quality diesel fuel in the country can lead to frequent breakdowns. To tackle the problem, a WFP IT expert has devised a custom filtering system which protects the generator from impurities. Deployed across the country, the system has helped to provide aid workers with a more reliable source of power.

MOGADISHU—Electricity is just one of the many uncertainties that make things difficult for aid workers in Somalia.

No electricity means no light, no computers and no internet. No computers and no internet means no access to the systems that WFP staff need to work in a place like Somalia.

“All offices in Somalia rely on generators because there is no local power available,” says Salman Omer, WFP’s Deputy Country Director in Somalia. “If we don’t have power, it jeopardizes our whole operation and the security of our staff.”

A homemade innovation

Rare commodity

On their own, high-quality generators are not enough to ensure a steady supply of power. It takes clean diesel fuel as well. Unfortunately, that’s a rare commodity in a country like Somalia. 

IT expert Cyprien Hiniolwa explains, locally bought diesel fuel is often stored or transported in less than perfect ways, which can lead to pollution by sediment or even water.

“When the generator sucks up the diesel, it also sucks in these impurities,” says Cyprien Hiniolwa, Head of IT for Somalia. “This causes it to malfunction and eventually break down.” 

To tackle this problem, Hiniolwa devised a filtering system that cleans the diesel before it reaches the generator. “It’s a three-part process,” explains Hiniolwa. “The first section separates heavy matter from the diesel. The second section separates sediment and the third section separates water.” 

Saving time and money

As a result of Hiniolwa’s solution, WFP offices across Somalia are not only saving time and money on broken generators, but using diesel formerly considered too dirty to use. 

“We had 2,000 litres of diesel which we thought we would have to dump because it was too polluted,” says Hiniolwa. “We put this diesel through the filtering system and we were able to use it without any problems.” 

The filtering plants also help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions - the cleaner the diesel that goes into the generators, the less harmful the gases they emit. 

After we created this solution, we had no more problems with the generators and the life of the machines is much longer,” says Omer. “The diesel filtering system is a great innovation and has been very successful.