Senegal's President Macky Sall announced late Saturday that his government will pay this month's water bills for all citizens affected by the water shortage crisis, which is now in its third week.
"In view of the difficulties our people are facing, we will take responsibility to support this month’s water bill for all people affected by the water shortage," Sall said after visiting the Keur Momar Sarr, a small northern locality roughly 200km from Dakar.
An acute shortage of running water has plagued Senegal since September 12 after damage to a main water pipeline.
The problem is forcing thousands of Senegalese to roam the capital's streets with barrels, basins and bottles seeking water for their families.
Long queues of people, who can't afford bottled water, can be seen across the capital near makeshift wells and water trucks.
Many of them complain about having to walk long distances to get drinking water.
Officials blame the shortage, which has now entered its third week, on damage to the capital's main supply pipeline in Keur Momar Sarr.
State-run water agency SDE said its engineers were working to fix the damage.
Visiting the site Saturday with his prime minister, President Sall told reporters the government will commission more tankers and more army staff to help reduce people's suffering.
The government has scrambled to provide makeshift solutions to the crisis by setting up army-supervised water distribution points in areas where water trucks are present.
We need water
President Sall urged people to be more patient, saying experts and a new piece will soon arrive from France.
"The breakdown is not an ordinary one, its reparation would need more time and the replacement of the damaged piece by a new one," he added.
Six workers on the pipeline site were slightly injured Friday following a new explosion of the pipe, according to security forces.
But Sall's pledge to foot the water bills and appeal for calm did not set well with the disgruntled locals.
"I don’t think this is a good solution now," Moustapha Ndiaye, 56, told Anadolu Agency.
"What we want is water, water and water," he fumed.
"Look, we have been expending more than two month’s water bill since the shortage started," Ndiaye complained.
"An average water bill cannot exceed $50 dollars for a standard family. Since the shortage started, I spend $20 dollars every two days for cart renting, and other expenses," he explained.
"We need water, this is what we want."