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Water is life

An excerpt from an article entitled

Drilling for Wells in Kenya
Written by: David Eshihuula for Suitcases for Africa
Background information on the Western Region in Kenya

Western region is one of the eight regions in Kenya. It has a total population of approximately 4.8million people. It is one of the regions in Kenya that has the highest poverty index.

The majority of the population stays in rural areas without access to clean and fresh water. A greater percentage of the populations in rural areas are peasants. The main economic activities of the people in the region are small scale farming and small business activities. Livestock farming is also practiced and the main methods used to rear animals are tethering and free movement. Unsanitary livestock waste disposal is a major cause of water related diseases as in most cases the waste finds its way to the streams that act as water sources for this rural population. The road network is poor which hampers efficient travel and transport to and from urban areas.

Contamination from human and livestock waste is a major cause of water-related disease such as amoebic dysentery or cholera. Flies and other diseases-carrying insects are drawn to unsanitary water sites and compound the risk of infection.

All these problems are exacerbated by the fact that economic hardships, inadequate education, and lack of public transport prevent many individuals from seeking health care in the early stages of an illness. Currently 80% of the population in the Western region use water from hazardous sources for cooking, bathing and consumption. Approximately half of these vulnerable populations are children. Fresh and clean water is the answer to many of these problems facing poor rural population in this region.

Water scarcity and availability of clean water in the Western region of Kenya has been an issue for decades. Searching for potable water sources is a daily chore for many poor women and children across the region. Western Province is the region where Suitcases for Africa works. Women and children in this region spend many hours each day hauling water from unprotected sources to their homes. This population, predominantly girls, spend the wee hours of the morning and evening trekking for long distances looking for this precious commodity.

Most of these young school girls spend a lot of time fetching water in the evenings instead of attending to their homework or playing with siblings or friends. Moreover, after making many trips to the water sources which usually takes three quarters of an hour per trip the young girls come back home tired, worn out and breathless due to the hilly and treacherous terrain. In addition these children are consistently exposed to water sources that have been contaminated by water borne bacteria. As such they contract diseases such as cholera and they are often affected by life threatening diarrhea from parasites in the unclean water. Moreover, these children develop coughs due to persistent exposure to the morning cold. Further still these unfortunate children fall sick frequently due to drinking water with parasitic worms or wading in water with high coli form levels. Not only does the work of transporting water inhibit a child’s ability to access education, but it is also “back-breaking” work. Endless household chores such as caring for livestock, siblings, washing, cooking, cleaning and obtaining water never ends, from morning to night, every day. The heavy water fetched in containers that vary in size, is carried on the child’s head for many miles. With children carrying an average of one gallon or more, this water plus the container can weigh up to 10 pounds or more which can also cause physical damage to the child’s body. The older the child, the more water they typically carry. Adolescent girls and women carry up to 20 liters gallon on their head and a 5 liter gallon in the other hand. Faced also with a lack of sanitation and clean water, it often means that girls who are fortunate to be in school must often stop their education at puberty because of lack of proper resources during menstruation.

Nonetheless, disease, lack of education and physical deformities are not the only risk of fetching water for these children. Something infinitely more horrifying often awaits them along the way as they fetch water during the wee hours of the morning or at dusk, especially the young girls. Typically alone and without adult accompaniment or any means of defense they risk an attack by various animals, such as crocodiles and large cats that live along the water route. Children are often assaulted, raped and abducted. By drilling water near a child’s home, it brings real hope to a child who may, with more readily – available water, be able to attend school and have a chance to thrive. The lifeline of safe, attainable water eliminates health risks due to infection and heavy physical labour, but it can also mean saving a child from terrorizing rape and potentially deadly sexual assaults.

Water is Life!


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