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Whole day journey in search of water

BUSINESS
By | March 30th 2009

By Karanja Njoroge

Its early morning in the sun baked fields of Nginyang in East Pokot District and Chemket Momwale is preparing to traverse the bushes in search of water.

By the time the 60-year-old mother of five arrives at the nearest borehole at Chemeril it will be past midday.

"I have to walk for more than 20km daily to look for water," Momwale says.

At the borehole, Momwale joins other elderly women jostling with youths to fetch the water.

Chief Robert Kanyakera says some of the residents have travelled from Akiwachatis more than 40km away.

"I asked residents to collect water at night to avoid cases of people collapsing due to the intense heat," he says.

On this day, 70-year-old Chepowana Loram is ailing and cannot fetch the water after walking in the hot sun and having not eaten for three days.

Sarura Mathehe at Bhangale village in Tana River District Sunday. She is among those faced with starvation. [PHOTOS: STANDARD]

"She has come from Akiwachatis and has fallen sick as she waits for her turn to fetch the water," the Chief informs us.

Kanyekera says that since the drought started, cases of residents fainting as they walked to the borehole have risen.

School children, who have abandoned school, are among those at the borehole.

"I was a pupil at Natan Primary School in Nginyang but had to come here after we learnt it is the only place with water," 10-year-old Kapelile Abong says.

Only 10 litres

After travelling the long distance, residents are allowed to fetch only 10 litres of water per day from the borehole.

The borehole constructed through the assistance of the Belgian Government eight years ago, is the only lifeline for the residents.

"Due to the high demand, the borehole operates on a 24-hour basis," Momwale adds. Locals live with the nagging fear that if the borehole machine breaks down, their lives would grind to a halt. The residents have witnessed the drying of eight dams Chemeril, Tuwo, Cheselybon, Kasiokon, Kadingding, Toplane, Lokiwach and Kang’oria.

Desperate for water, locals have been scooping sand out of the dams in a bid to remove silt as they anticipate the rains.

Relief food

"After the dams dried up the area has relied on food relief as there is no other means of earning a livelihood," Kanyekera adds.

The dams have been serving residents from Mukutani, Kolowa, Kipsaraman, Marigat, Muchongoi and Salawa.

The last time it rained here was mid-last year.

The situation affecting herdsmen is compounded by the drying up of major rivers including River Nginyang and Perkerra.

Pastoralists say with no water relief food is of no meaning, as they have to cook it.

"This is the first time we are having all the water points drying up," says Mr Peter Dindi a civic leader.

Dindi terms the drought as the worst to hit the area in a long time.

"As a matter of priority the Government should strengthen rapid response for borehole repair and de-siltation of water pans and dams," he adds.

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