Donnerstag, 17. August 2017

When the clock runs backwards - Life without water in provincial Kenya

Especially now during the hottest period of the year, we all expect seamless supplies of water. Our level of tolerance towards  a lack of water is close to non-existing and resembles the human right to water and sanitation as the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized in resolution 64/292

On 28 July 2010, the General Assembly furthermore acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights. The Resolution calls upon States and international organisations to provide financial resources, help capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.

Meanwhile still in 2017, many reasons prevent residents of rural Kenyan communities from access to their basic human rights. And it is not only adults, but especially undererage students that have to lead a fight against thirst, hunger and for sanitation at the lowest level. 
A Kenyan village at 7:00 a.m.
This story is dedicated to the young students between four and eight years of age in a typical village without water. Or should I not better say, between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. in the morning, which has a bigger meaning to those hordes of youngsters one can observe on their daily march of thirst for the precious water.

Akinyi, a girl of six years, leaves the poor home on a hill, in her hands two jerrycans almost half as big as herself. They once contained cooking oil and now serve as her daily company. After a walk of 40 minutes she can see the first small lights of candles illuminating the simple houses, made of straw and clay. It is 4:40 a.m. in Awasi, Western Kenya.

Not knowing what this morning will bring her, she is happy and cheerful, like most of the days of her life, which has not seen too many reasons to celebrate. It is simply the lack of opportunity to know what she is missing. Those things, children of her age usually understand as a normal part of life. Playing, sleeping, washing or even showering and a good meal before they are off to school.
She simply doesn't miss it.

What she knows is, that coming home without her jerrycans filled would make her mother very unhappy, yet another day to master in the merciless heat of the African sun close to the equator. A day without clean trousers, a shirt filled with hunger and the cloud of dust hanging around her for another full day and another full night. Will she be lucky today and get her buckets filled?

What does it have to do with luck in a situation with too many luring for the same? What are her chances, she is small and she cannot carry too much of weight on her fragile shoulders or arms. But there was mother, saying she should try. And she doesn't want to disappoint her, she feels that what she is doing is important to her family. This is what makes her proud and strong, even stronger than the boys of her age. In the village there she would find her friends from school, she would see them the first time today. Later for the second time, when they meet in school, she is already very tired. So now is the time to  talk a little about things that matter.

Coming closer she can already see many people are queuing in front of the water kiosk the catholic church has placed here in the center next to the road that connects Kisumu with Kericho and a road that is leading somewhere to other forgotten places. Akinyi is at cross-roads.

The kiosk with the water free of charge, has not opened yet, when one of her friends is approaching from the other side of the road. When she is close enough, she can hear her shouting with excitement. Her friend wants her to come along. A quarter mile down the road there is a bursted water pipe next to the road. Since the kiosk would still be closed for another hour or so and her chances in such a long row of people to fetch the water she needed are low, she decides the best thing to do would be to join her friend and hunt along the highway.

After a while they reach and she feels happy that she has to share the catch with only a few other kids. It was worth it, even when she had to add another half mile to her daily walk of three miles and even if the water is dirty.  And the load is so heavy on her head and on her left shoulder.

Back to the water kiosk, she only pays little attention. Too many people. Too small are her chances for some water, especially since the water here is very limited, it comes from sources filled with surface water. Sometimes the sources are 20 meters below the ground and only sometimes as low as 60 meters.

Awasi would not have to be a dried out place, only if there was a quality pump which would bring the water from depths of around 200 - 300 meters to the surface. The villagers are ready to pay for the water, as they are ready to pay for the water that might be arriving later with the water truck. Some of them, young women, are even ready to pay a very high price. Awasi became famous for this a few years ago, when a newsreport showed that water vendors, those with the handcarts, delivered their goods to the doorsteps, even at a larger distance. Only their currency was as shameful as inadequate and doesn't have to be illustrated in this post.
For those interested, one an find the broadcast on Youtube under https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgl8v5gxVxc

Water is carried to this place in big lorries from Kisumu. Only, if this truck is sold out, before reaching Awasi, this means another day without water.

After my research, I had learnt that usually Awasi could have around eight wells. Only two of them were working at the time.

One belongs to the catholic church and the other to a private school. Whenever there is a surplus of water the school sells it in the market in Awasi.

Looking at their pump, one can see it is not in a very good condition, the school-kids are jumping up and down the tubes, which is definitely worsening the functionality. Moreover, believe it or not, when this photograph was taken, the whole site was less than a year old. Which has to do with a lack of quality of the cheap materials used from China. Same fate as with the other six installations in and out of Awasi. Things are good for a moment, but after only one part has a crack or needs a repair, the hole borehole is usually given up.

There is one solution, which is very considerate and guarantees almost 24/7 fresh water available: Lifelink water solutions from the Danish company Grundfos. Only the price is somewhat on the high side: approximately 50000 US-Dollars.

I think that could be the best investment in the development of a small town like Awasi. And the money is only needed as seed money which would be paid back within three years. After this period, the pump would create a profit which could be reinvested in the infrastructure of Awasi.

From this post and for future posts, I have four more stories to tell.

  1. What is the Lifelink solution for water
  2. How an initial payment/ investment of 50000 Dollars would be paid back through a plan
  3. How Awasi could start investing in its infrastructure and blossom
  4. How did Akinyi find her way home and what happened between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and later at school?
Nota bene
In November 2002, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment No. 15 on the right to water. Article I.1 states that "The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights". Comment No. 15 also defined the right to water as the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.

  • Resolution A/RES/64/292. United Nations General Assembly, July 2010
  • General Comment No. 15. The right to water. UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, November 2002

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