Shona Jennings, ChildFund Programmes Manager, describes her recent visit to ChildFund projects in Emali, Kenya.

Shona (bottom right) visits ChildFund projects in Emali, Kenya.

A concerned teacher reported to Violet, ChildFund’s sponsor relations officer in Emali, Kenya, that a child was behaving strangely. The boy couldn’t talk properly; he was falling asleep; he was finding it difficult to walk. Could she find out what was wrong? Violet sat down with the boy and eventually discovered the problem:  it had been three days since the child had had anything to drink.

How easy it is for us, here in New Zealand, to reach for a glass of water and glug to our fill. It is impossible to imagine ourselves in a position where water is not available, especially where even a mouthful might not be accessible for days at a time. It is hard to appreciate the mission some people must make to find water – a mission that takes women and children several hours a day, and requires a trek of many kilometres, causing children to miss out on school. But this is still how it is in many parts of the world, including in Emali, where ChildFund New Zealand is assisting communities to make water more accessible to families.

Noorkisaruni and granddaughter, Sarah

Access to water is not simply about quenching human thirst. It is also about ‘life’ for animals and crops. The Emali community  is divided by the main highway to Mombassa port. The noisy drum-roll of heavy truck tyres provides a constant, rumbling  base-beat to the lowing of cows and bleating of goats grazing on the roadsides; their red blanket-clad minders watching over them. On the other side of the road, the coaxing of farmers trailing oxen as they plough their fields for planting provides the lyrics.  It should be an encouraging sight, observing such industriousness. But sadly, the farmers realise that many of their efforts are in vain – rains have been few and sporadic, crop failures dramatic and livestock losses great.

I talk to one Maasai grandmother, Noorkisaruni,  whose family’s herd of cattle was recently reduced from 30 to just six due to lack of water and grazing. Each day her sons drove their hungry animals 14 kilometres to and from the nearest water source. Although too late for Noorkisaruni’s animals, a stock trough now sits not far from a communal water tank that ChildFund New Zealand recently helped to install.

Trough for stock, Ewangan

At another water point, grandmother Ustina told us, “When this water wasn’t available, I was forced to drink water that dogs and wild animals were drinking.” Ustina’s family gave the land where a water kiosk now stands.  A private New Zealand donor contributed money to ChildFund for piping, and the community dug a two kilometre trench to link water from a neighbouring water source into their village. Water collection, which had previously taken six hours, has been reduced to just over an hour.

Felicitus is eight. Her mother died when she was two, and she is now being raised by her aunt.  Her job is to clean the compound and give water to the animals – four cows and three goats.  Having water closer by means that the compound is cleaner and hygiene has been improved for the family. “We can now get clean water that is not salty and is more suitable for cooking and washing,” says Felicitus’ aunt. “We are so happy to have water close by now. With the time we have saved collecting water, we have extra time to work in the garden.”

Felicitus fills her water containers from the tap. Felicitus is responsible for cleaning her family compound and watering the animals.

Admittedly, Emali has just been through the worst drought in 60 years. But water in Emali is not a one-off problem… it is a constant and all-consuming worry for families and farmers. With 70 years experience working on projects such as providing poor communities with access to water, ChildFund plans to install water infrastructure that will supply clean, safe water for the people of Emali for the next 20 years. A number of boreholes, sand dams, shallow wells and pipeline extensions have been planned. This will immediately benefit 12,000 people and around 10,000 livestock. Now all ChildFund, and the community of Emali, needs is the funding to turn this dream into reality.

You can help provide clean safe water for families and hope for children like Felicitus.  Donate to give Water for Life Now.

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