Health or Water? – A Dilemma that Joyline Mayus Face Everyday

by Amref Health Africa

Meet Joyline Mayus, a mother of two from Mashuuru village in Kajiado East sub-county in Kajido County. She lives in a region characterised by water shortage, poverty, high levels of illiteracy and a nomad pastoralist lifestyle- which, for many years, contributed to slow economic growth and development in the county.

Water, one of the basic human needs, has made the residents of the village and the whole sub-county gamble between searching for water or consider other tasks of similar competing priorities. Joyline, just like other residents, struggles with this dilemma.

Every day, Joyline wakes up at around 5.00 am in preparation for a lengthy sunny and harsh day ahead. She prepares breakfast for her children, performs her house chores and tends out the animals – cows and goats before setting out to go look for water. She walks for at least 10 kilometres, a journey that takes her between three to four hours, traversing through a dense thorny bush which hosts wild animals – elephants, hyenas, snakes, wild dogs and lions. She risks her life every day in search of water.

She has to arrive at the water point early enough to avoid staying longer as a result of queuing which sometimes takes up to two hours. The solar-powered borehole only serves them best on sunny days. When the weather is calm or during cold seasons, they rarely get water for their daily use.

Recently, she gave birth to a secondborn daughter. She narrates that she started attending clinics after giving birth to her first child. Despite the fact that she understands the importance of taking her children to the clinic, she is forced to make tough choices without an easy alternative.

“I am forced to choose between fetching water, looking after the animals and family or taking my children to the clinic. It is hard, they all need my attention as a mother. If Amref, the county government or any other partner would help bring water close to our community, I will be relieved. I would not be forced to make such choices that endanger the health and well-being of my children. I will have enough time to seek antenatal care,” said Joyline Mayus. “I am making tough choices between my health and that of my daughter which I don’t want to.”

The long-distance that Joyline walks in search of water is exhaustive for a lactating mother, she arrives home late in the day while tired. In that state, she is unable to take her children to the clinic. This has resulted in her missing several antenatal care visits which makes her children vulnerable to diseases and other infections.

“My health and that of my daughter are compromised. I make choices which have repercussions on me. Whenever I have a chance to visit the clinic – which is situated 10 kilometres away, the nurses who do not understand my situation get mad at me. They blame me for being ignorant and insensitive about my children’s health, yet it is not my wish,” Joyline Mayus.

She adds I wish we had a clinic closer to our village.

The Maasai people give first priority to their animals than any other thing in life. Despite the fact that Joyline uses a donkey to carry water from the water point, she says that, together with other mothers and girls, they also have to wait for long hours for the cows to drink water first. They are not allowed to fetch the rare commodity when the animals are drinking. As a result, she arrives home late in the evening exhausted. She is forced to sleep late in the night at around 11:30 pm after her family. She has to ensure that her children and husband have eaten.

By Noah Wekesa, CA, Digital Media, Amref Health Africa

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