Clean water key to taming communicable diseases

Residents fetching dirty water from Nagwenyi borehole in Mosiro in Narok East sub-county. Pastoralists in the area have been asked to sell their stock to avert losses occasioned by drought-related deaths. PHOTO: ROBERT KIPLAGAT

Kenya has once again found itself in the jaws of drought. Reports so far indicate that the worst affected are the arid and semi-arid areas of Turkana, Pokot, Baringo, Nyandarua and North Eastern.

The result has been death from hunger and preventable communicable diseases.
The drought has seen rivers dry up. Many have had to make do with the little water resources available, recycling where possible to maximise on usage.

“Water from cleaning utensils is reused to clean hands and then reused to water cattle,” says Cecilia Ngina Wanjau, a resident of Nyandarua. “We get sick from this and our children suffer the most but those were the options we had until we got a new borehole.”

The drought, says Benjamin Karanja, a resident of Ol-Joro-Orok in Nyandarua County, has exposed the difficulties of life without water – at least a clean source of water.
Karanja, a pastor and an elder in Madaraka, a location within Ol-Joro-Orok, says that for years, children from the area have suffered from diseases with diarrhoea-like symptoms.

Communicable diseases caused by lack of clean water (hence bad sanitation) include cholera, typhoid, dysentery and bilharzia.

“Our main source of water are two rivers - Chamka and Ngari-Naru - located kilometres away. The rivers are polluted by some industries upstream. The water sometimes has a weird green colour and foul smell. But we didn’t have options: These were the only water sources we could access and also share with our animals” says Cecilia.

According to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 801,000 children below five years die from diarrhoea each year, mostly in developing countries.

CDC says unsafe drinking water, inadequate water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation together contribute to about 88 per cent of deaths from diarrhoeal diseases.

The good news is that Madaraka residents have since November last year been using clean water from a Sh4 million borehole constructed with the help of Postal Corporation of Kenya and Nyandarua County Government.

As residents of Madaraka relished their clean water source, the world was celebrating World Water Week, that saw water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa reiterate the importance of water in public health.

According to Prof Matilu Mwau, director of Consortium for National Health Research, communicable diseases can be prevented through proper sanitation and the availability of clean water for domestic use.

Karanja says that Madaraka has experienced fewer water-borne diseases since residents started using water from the new borehole.

“The only thing that has changed in Madaraka is the new borehole; that is how we know the clean water has made things better,” Karanja. “It couldn’t have come at a better time with the on-going drought.”

The borehole was fitted with a water tower that can accommodate 20,000 litres of water and is expected to serve more than 1000 households.