Water threatens life

The struggle for survival is usually described using terms of war . Water remains a problem in most parts of Kabondo Division in Kenya.

As Marceline Adhiambo and her younger daughter Lillian wakes up, they wondered where they would get water. They had to wake at the crack of dawn and walk 5 km to reach the source of the water. “This is a daily routine and I have no otherwise,” said Adhiambo.

In the arid and semi-arid lands in Kenya, over 70% of the population have no access to safe water. Kabondo west is no exception . Residents of this area have it rough during dry seasons.

They have to walk long distances to get this rare commodity. The trips are made by women as young as 15 years . On average, such women carry loads of 20-25 kilograms over distances of 3.5 kilometers even three times a day.

Water problems in this region range from scarcity, pollution, health, sanitation, lack of access to available water, management and waste. Water is one of the crucial investments and with high values in a community in promoting human life and mankind development and other living creatures , and is also important prime source of better health and the environment in which people and other living creatures lives.

The area is a long two permanent rivers namely Awach and Sondu Miriu. These rivers have not solved the situation but worsen it. Even as demand for water by all users grows, ground water is being depleted, other water eco-systems are becoming polluted and degraded and developing new sources of water is getting more costly.

In the past residents living a long river Awach lamented bitterly that the management of Kadongo Nursing Home have been disposing empty medicine bottles and washing patients clothes and bedding in river Awach exposing them to health hazards. This resulted to deaths as a result to cholera out break.

River Sondu Miriu with the construction of Odino falls is no more. They later raised the matter but former Energy Minister Hon. Raila Odinga argues that they are like passengers inside an airplane asking the pilot to land for the airplane is making a lot of noise.

But with the Kenyas’ Environmental Management and Coordination Act becoming a law the community now had limited legal opportunities to participate in managing their environment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines safe drinking water as that liquid that is clears, colorless, tasteless, odorless (and) essential for human life. It further states that, safe drinking water should be available in the home or within 15 minutes walking distance. This is contrary to what is taking place in this region.

The water crisis in this region and especially in Rachuonyo district as a whole impacts heavily on women in their role as drawers of water and as custodians of family welfare.

The area Chief Mr. John Arogo observed that the hours women spend searching for water and ferry it over long distances mean that they have little time for social and development activities.

Mrs. Ann Kajumulo Executive Director of UN-HABITATsaid recently during a 3-day workshop for journalist on water policy issues in East Africa held in Nairobi that girls take the brunt of the burden of carrying water home, missing out on the opportunity of attending school. Improved access to water can considerably reduce this workload on girls.

It’s seen that the search for water is a health risk for women and girls who carry heavy quantities of it on their backs and heads over long distances . This has negative effects on their heads , which become furrowed , their necks that get retracted their backs and spines and not least their legs which get bow-shaped . Added to these are the hazards of water-borne diseases that women expose themselves to when they get in to the water barefoot to fill their containers.

Yet , in spite of their heavy involvement in water , women are hardly involved in its management . Despite the fact that women , indeed are the drawers of water they are not consulted when water projects are planned , implemented and managed . When this happens, such projects are doomed to failure since the primary users, who would know exactly what their requirements are, are marginalized in the planning process.

The need to involve women in the planning, implementation and management of water projects. Right now in the whole area they have only one tap at Kodumo west sub- location and one dam at Kakang’utu.

Due to the importance of the use of water in spearheading mankind development in the community, and in the environmental preservation, there should be a strict supervision to ensure the correct usage of the resources available to all beneficiaries of this investment.

The cost of ensuring water supplies gets to every body in this community is so high. With abject poverty it has resulted in to failure of their contribution to involve in various water development projects .

Joseph Ojwang is a free-lance journalist. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Kenya, Africa.