Struggles of Access to Safe and Clean Drinking Water – The Story of Ann Porusia

by Amref Health Africa

Ann Porusia, is a mother of three children, she lives in Kenyawapoka, an outskirt village, 170 km away from Kajiado County town centre. She lives in a community of around 50 people with a well-defined leadership structure. Being a patriarchal community, she is left with the responsibility of looking after the children, fetching water for domestic use and for the animals, as well as milking the cows and goats.

Kajiado County, being a semi-arid area, access to safe and clean drinking water for domestic and animal use is limited. In her normal life, Ann faces a myriad of challenges which in most cases, derails her daily schedule. The few available water points are far away – several kilometres from her village.

To get water, she wakes up early enough – at least 5:30 am to prepare breakfast for her family before setting out to go fetch water. She walks between three to four hours, about 12 kilometres – one way through a thicket which hosts lots of wild animals to the water point. She uses donkeys to help carry the water. The wild animals possess a threat to their life, journey and efforts of getting the much-needed water. She recounts instances where together with her friends, they encountered elephants on their way, “huwa tunakimbia kwa sababu tunaogopa kugongwa na ndovu (we usually run for fear of being attacked by elephants)”. The donkeys, also out of fear, run away into the bush, throwing off the jerricans from their back. After the elephants are gone, they recollect themselves and look for the donkeys in the nearby bushes to continue with their journey to salvage water.

Every day, Ann has to leave her home at 6. 00 am so that she can be at the water point before the elephants arrive to mess up the clean water. In such instances, they are forced to dig deep at different points within the same site to get clean water. This means spending more time.

Ann is not always at peace leaving her children alone at home, she fears that wild animals might break into her homestead and cause damage or injure the children. As a result, she locks them in the house until she comes back.

When she returns, she has to prepare lunch for the children, clean utensils, wash clothes and water the animals. “It is exhaustive walking 12 kilometres every day, it takes me four hours, sometimes I am unable to do other house chores or even visit the health facility”, she said.

“I have seen children, especially girls, miss school for days to go fetch water, a harsh reality it is, but they don’t have a favourable alternative. They need the water for domestic use as well as bathing before going to school”, said Ann.

The girls are the most affected in this community, they are viewed as lesser beings, not given equal opportunities as boys. In most cases, they are subjected to retrogressive cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), early child forced marriages and unintended pregnancies. Being viewed as commodities, they are exchanged for animals without even their knowledge.

The adolescents, like Ann, lack access to sexual reproductive health (SRH) services. This increases their vulnerability. The available health facilities are located several miles away from their villages, thus locking them out and barely understand that contraceptives exist to help them plan for their reproductive health and future. The high level of ignorance among the residents also contributes heavily to some of the SRH access challenges experienced in the communities. 

“We wish that we could have social amenities such as hospitals and water points within our reach to save us the time we waste while looking for water and health facilities, kilometres away. With these facilities close to us, we will be able to keep our children in school and improve our livelihoods for the good of whole society,” – Ann Porusia.

Noah Wekesa, CA, Digital Media, Amref Health Africa

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