This looks like a job for… “the water people”

Categories: Clean Water, Kenya

What would you do if the only water tap in your house stopped working?

If you knew how to fix it, you’d likely try to repair it yourself. If not, you’d probably call a plumber.

But what if you had no knowledge of how to fix the tap yourself and you couldn’t afford the repair cost? What if there wasn’t even a plumber available in your area?

Even worse, what if that water tap was your only source of water for several kilometres?

This scenario is all too familiar for thousands of people living in Kenya’s West Pokot County. Some of the key problems faced in this low-lying region are poverty, extremely high temperatures with pronounced droughts, and few reliable sources of water. Without clean water, the people in the region are vulnerable to many diseases, including trachoma, a bacterial eye infection which leads to irreversible blindness.

In an effort to alleviate the water crisis, other well-intending organizations have drilled boreholes and wells in the region, but unfortunately, many of these water projects have since broken down due to lack of maintenance. The water pumps and equipment have rusted and failed, and the boreholes have been abandoned by communities who do not have the money nor the training needed to repair them.

But now, there’s good news! Thanks to a generous donor foundation, Operation Eyesight implemented a project to rehabilitate five boreholes in West Pokot.

We replaced the old diesel-powered generators with solar energy systems, which included replacing the broken piping and installing new solar pumps and water tanks. In communities where the borehole was near a school, a tank and solar pump was installed inside the school compound for security purposes. Then, water was piped outside the school compound for livestock and general community use.

Thanks to our donors, five more communities now have convenient access to water for their homes, vegetable gardens and livestock – which benefits the communities both socially and economically. Best of all: these communities will have access to fresh water for generations to come.

Before our work began, the communities agreed to take full responsibility of these boreholes. We trained village committees on how to maintain the boreholes and sustainably manage their water supplies. Moving forward, we’ll conduct regular monitoring visits to offer technical guidance and any other support that may be needed.

And the good news doesn’t stop there! Not only are we providing communities with fresh water, but we’re also implementing all four steps of the World Health Organization-endorsed SAFE strategy to eliminate trachoma. SAFE stands for Surgery to treat trichiasis (the painful late stage of the disease), Antibiotics to eliminate infection, Face washing and hygiene education, and Environmental improvement (which includes boreholes). By providing communities with antibiotics, access to surgery services, hygiene education and functioning boreholes, we’re saving people’s sight!

Unfortunately, scenes like this one are common in Kenya and other developing countries. This water pump in the community of Akelin-Kupeyon broke down, forcing people to walk long distances in search of water. They’d scoop sand to find water from the seasonal rivers or rely on dirty, stagnant water from small excavation pits – both unsafe and unreliable sources.
Our Kenya staff and partners visited Kases-Cheporkoi to assess the community’s borehole and meet with village leaders. According to the community, this old borehole was drilled by a migrant who had settled in the area years ago. After the man got hurt pumping water, he removed the pump, sealed the borehole and left.
This is what the borehole in the community of Losam used to look like: broken and abandoned.
This is what the borehole in Losam looks like today. It’s busier than ever! The heavy hand pump was replaced with a solar-powered pump, water tank and water tap. This new system is much easier and safer for women and children to use. It’s also easier and less expensive to maintain, which means the community will have a sustainable source of water for many years to come!
This borehole is located between a school and the community of Nasal. The pump had broken down, forcing families to rely on a seasonal river for their domestic and farming needs.
The once dry borehole in Nasal is now flowing with fresh water! The tank and solar pump are located just outside the school for community use. Water is also piped directly into the school compound for drinking and washing.

 

All of the communities were eager to receive our support and are actively participating in the projects. They fondly refer to our project staff as “watu wa maji na macho,” which is Swahili for “the water people and eyes.” Like us, the communities are grateful for our donors’ support to eliminate avoidable blindness in West Pokot. Thank you!

March 22 is World Water Day! To mark the occasion, please consider donating to our trachoma surgery program. Thank you for your support!