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Kenya: Clean water transforms community

Mercy Tomno and Leakey Lemayan wash their hands using a new hand washing kit supplied by World Vision. Photo: © 2013 Joyce Mulama/World Vision

Mercy Tomno and Leakey Lemayan wash their hands using a new hand washing kit supplied by World Vision. Photo: © 2013 Joyce Mulama/World Vision

In Kenya’s Rift Valley, lack of clean drinking water at Morop Primary School was a big problem. Students often suffered from waterborne diseases; some spent more time at home than in school.

It was known as a school of sickness.

In Kenya’s Rift Valley, a lack of clean drinking water at Morop Primary School was a big problem. Students often suffered from waterborne diseases; some spent more time at home than in school.

“There was no clean water,” says 13-year-old Mercy Tomno, a seventh-grader. “We fetched water from a nearby pond, which we would carry to school. We fell sick from drinking this water.

“Many times I had severe stomachache. I went down with diarrhea and was forced to miss school many days in a week.”

‘We had no choice…’
Leakey Lemayan’s story was not much better. Being the firstborn of four siblings, the 13-year-old walked more than 1.2 miles in search of water — any water — for his siblings to drink at school.

All he could find was stagnant water.

“We had no choice but to use that water. It was contaminated, and we fell sick as soon as we drank it,” Leakey says. “We remained away from school until the time the diarrhea stopped. This meant that we missed so many teachings.”

The school’s principal, Michael Githinji, agrees that absenteeism from school was a common problem.

“At least 15 pupils would be absent in a single class in a day,” Michael says. “This was due to cases of diarrhea and typhoid.”

Meanwhile, teachers were also missing lessons to search for water, which affected the school’s overall performance.

“In 2007, we came to school one day, and teachers said that they could not teach; they asked for permission to go look for water for their families,” Michael says. “They went for days, to the furthest place.”

The gift of clean water
Recognizing the impact of dirty water on the community, World Vision began a water project for the school and the neighboring community in 2011.

The school soon had a 10,000-liter (2,641-gallon) plastic tank, a 30-cubic meter (7,925-gallon) concrete tank, and hand-washing kits that were distributed throughout the school. World Vision also piped water from a spring, some six miles away, to the school’s concrete tank.

Today, the school has water all year.

“We are so happy,” Michael says. “We are grateful to World Vision for providing us with clean water. No more absenteeism from class, no more diarrhea. Our children are healthy, our teachers are coming to school promptly, and our performance has greatly improved.”

Mercy cannot hide her joy as she freely washes her hands at a pump.

“I am overjoyed that I can not only drink clean water but also wash my hands after visiting the toilet, before a meal, and after a meal,” Mercy says. “Now I do not get attacked by diseases.”

In addition to providing water, World Vision also constructed toilets in the school and community, improving hygiene and sanitation standards. Initially, Morop Primary School had only three pit latrines shared between 410 boys and girls. Michael says the mud-walled, makeshift toilets were falling apart.

The school now boasts 18 neatly constructed, concrete toilets that serve girls and boys separately. Permanent toilet blocks also were constructed for community use, and now residents no longer defecate in the bushes.

Community benefits
Where residents once had to walk up to more than six miles looking for water, they can now find clean water in the heart of the community. Here, people draw water at a minimum fee of about 2 cents (U.S.) for a 5.2-gallon container.

“I could walk the whole day looking for water, and I could only manage one trip carrying four jerry cans (5.2 gallons each) of water on a donkey,” says Mary Nyanjama. “This was hardly enough for my family of four children and husband.”

Today clean water is easily accessible. “Water is just at my doorstep now; I can fetch as much as I need,” Mary says.

Mary now has time for other household chores because she does not have to walk long distances to get water.

In total, World Vision has constructed 11 water tanks in Kiambogoko, serving a population of about 25,500 people.

David Makau is World Vision’s water, sanitation, and hygiene officer in the Kiambogoko area. “I am elated because there is impact; there is real transformation in communities, and community members are collaborating with World Vision to make their lives better,” he says.

By Joyce Mulama
Original story appeared on worldvision.org.

Read more about the effect of clean water on communities around the world, including the stories of eight children whose lives are shaped by clean water’s presence — or absence.

About every minute, a child under 5 dies from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. You can help change that. Give now to support access to clean water.

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