Mid-morning at the Napeikore Early Childhood Education Centre in Tiaty and the merciless sun has driven the pupils to flock the only water point.
Lotuw Lomermongo wraps his lips around the hot tap and tries to suck out a few drops of water, but nothing comes out. Disappointed, he joins his equally parched playmates on the trudge back to class.
Benson Zeron, a teacher, tells The Standard that out of 121 pupils, only 50 have attended school on this day. He says the rest are probably helping their parents take care of livestock. The drought is biting.
“The water and food we offered used to motivate the pupils to come to school. But the numbers have gone down since we experienced a water shortage,” says Mr Zeron.
Alvis Belion, a Grade Two teacher, says they are forced to end classes early to let learners join their parents for long treks in search of water.
“Learning has been crippled, we teach up to 2pm and have to release the learners to go fetch water,” said Mr Belion.
Silale ward representative Nelson Lotela says nine schools may soon be closed if the scarcity is not addressed. They are Nasorot, Riongo, Nalekat, Orus, Natan, Toplen, Nakoko, Napeikore and Naudo primary schools.
Mr Lotela, a member of the county assembly’s Committee on Water and Irrigation, blames the water department for failing to address the perennial shortage.
There are also many unanswered questions over the state of 200 boreholes drilled by the national and county governments, all costing more than Sh1.6 billion, according to Water and Irrigation Executive Joel Koima.
Dr Koima says more than 100 boreholes have either suffered mechanical failure or their water has been found to be unfit for human consumption.
“Many of the boreholes are not working while some have been closed due to high salinity or too much fluoride in the water,” he tells The Standard.
What this means is that thousands of residents are facing a crisis that has no easy solutions.
In Mogotio, residents have been forced to dig through dry river beds in search of water.
The situation is the same in Tiaty, where hundreds of residents have camped at the Lokiwach water pan for days.
The residents compete with donkeys, camels, goats and sheep for the muddy water.
“We drink from this pan with the animals, although we fear that there might be an outbreak of waterborne diseases. But circumstances have forced us, we have no otherwise,” says Paul Lotudo.
In Silale, residents say water from a nearby borehole is too salty.
“You drink the water and you develop rashes and other health complications,” says Isaiah Kamama.
Mr Kamama says their goats have had bloated stomachs and had difficulty passing stool. Some, he says, have died.
Kamama says two boreholes in Riongo and Natan have hot, salty water and only one water point in Naudo has water fit for consumption.
“You drink the hot, salty water and it becomes hard for you to pass urine. Children are the most affected because some experience severe diarrhoea and swelling of the stomach,” he says.
At Chemolingot centre, a borehole broke down and condemned scores of residents to a life without water.
Tirioko ward representative Sam Lokales says he is preparing a petition on the water shortage issue, which he will present to the county assembly for debate. Mr Lokales says boreholes in Ngoron, Korelach, Kapunyany and Ptikii need to be repaired urgently.
The Water executive, however, says water projects cannot be implemented in some areas because of insecurity.
Governor Stanley Kiptis says he has convened a meeting to address the water crisis.
Mr Kiptis says the county government will repair all broken down boreholes.
He has further revealed that the county’s six water bowsers have been repaired and they will be supplying water to Mogotio, Marigat and Tiaty.