In Kenya, a woman is burdened with the important chore of collecting, managing, transporting and storing water. This can be an incredibly challenging task in Samburu County in northern Kenya, one of the driest areas of the country often plagued by water shortages. Sometimes it will not rain for an entire year in the region. The land is desolate, exposed and sparsely populated. Without access to running water, a woman must walk to the closest natural water source many kilometers away—in fact, the average distance a woman walks in Africa to collect water is six kilometers. Then, she must carry the heavy water all the way back, sometimes with a baby strapped to her back. Women in Africa on average carry 20 kg of water on their heads when they walk back from the water source.
Scola, a wife and mother living in Samburu County, only has access to one viable water source, the Nukutoto spring located in the mountains. She must travel a great distance, particularly in the dry season when the spring dries up, to fill up her jerry cans. During the dry season she must travel to another town 11 kilometers away with her donkey. When this happens, her children miss school. Given the severe drought that is currently afflicting East Africa, the spring dries up often and the children miss more school. When the spring is producing water, Scola must make the arduous hike up the mountain while avoiding wild animals who also drink from the spring. Scola says, “I usually come early in the morning to fetch water. In the morning I can manage to fetch ten liters while in the evening only five liters can be found because of competition with wild animals.” Scola’s aging neighbor, Naonkota, complains that she cannot carry as much water as the younger women. Despite her age and weak knees, she is still responsible for supplying the water in her household and she says, “Walking uphill is very difficult for me. Even if I make it to the source, I can only manage to carry back a… jerry can (up to five liters) of water.”
Not only must Scola and Naonkota avoid leopards and poisonous snakes on the trip to the spring, but the water could be contaminated. Elephants are known to muddy the water and baboons defecate in the water. Contaminated water leads to diarrhea and a high risk of contracting waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. A small-scale cholera outbreak resulted in the spring of 2013 because residents had no other choice but to drink this water. Diarrhea is responsible for almost 7.7% of all deaths in Africa. Water is life, as the saying goes, and in Kenya, when that water is contaminated, it can also mean death.
International Medical Corps, with funding from a private donor, has started to address the dire situation caused by the drought, providing access to water in Nkutoto by building a concrete shelter at the source to protect the spring from contamination and laying a series of pipelines to bring the water down the mountain and into the village for easy access. With the newly constructed water tap, the women of Nkuoto village no longer have to walk up the mountain, often with their livestock and children in tow, to collect water. A town elder, Situelia says, “This tap has ensured that our women are safe from wild animals while the water is also being used to hydrate our livestock.”
The lack of access to clean water affects women throughout Samburu County. Silango is a remote village about 20 km from Wamba town that can only be accessed via unreliable public transportation on rough, unpaved roads. Silango, like Nkutoto, is burdened by chronic drought and disease. Recently, International Medical Corps spent about a month building the Silango sand dam, an innovative technology for harvesting rainwater and providing the community with clean, reliable water. Previously, women of Silango had to walk seven km from the nearest road to the closest water source. The sand dam is now less than 500 meters to the village and saves women an enormous amount of time and energy. The sand dam collects and stores rainwater and prevents it from evaporating during the dry season. The sand filters the water, which helps prevent waterborne disease. Water from the sand dam is also tapped and directed to the health center, the school and the outdoor market. International Medical Corps has installed a hand pump to provide access to potable water for the community and also built cattle troughs.
Susan, a mother living in Engilae, another village in Samburu county where International Medical Corps is working, says that before International Medical Corps began its sanitation projects in Engilae, the maternity wing at the health center was not operating at optimum levels due to lack of an adequate water supply. The nationally recommended supply for a health center in Kenya is 10,000 liters per day. The women had to walk a distance of two km to the Ngeng’ river to fetch water and carry it uphill to use at the health center. Bringing 10,000 liters from the river everyday was an impossible task; there was never enough water to treat patients properly and it was often contaminated. This was the water used to clean mothers on the delivery beds. Now, International Medical Corps has established a successful water and sanitation project at the health center including building latrines, promoting good hygiene practices, and, most importantly, creating access to a water supply, water storage and distribution facilities. Susan says that incidences of maternal and child health problems are decreasing thanks to the delivery of necessary services and the availability of clean water.
In an effort to unite women in Kenya in their shared burden over water chores, International Medical Corps has trained local women to form Mother-to-Mother Support Groups. Susan founded such a group in Engilae. In this group, Susan educates other mothers about important water and sanitation practices. She says, “International Medical Corps has shown us how to use baby diapers. Previously it was very embarrassing for us especially when the baby soiled its clothes. We usually dispose of the diapers by dumping them in the pit latrines or burning,” she says.
Thanks to the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors International Medical Corps is able to provide life-saving water programs in regions severely affected by drought. Its work in Samburu has made a sustainable, long-term impact in the lives of Scola, Naonkota. Situelia, Susan and their neighbors.
Severe drought in East Africa has led to acute food crisis and crops failures, affecting the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of communities, particularly marginalized and vulnerable populations. Since the majority of these populations depend on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood, drought conditions have a significant impact on these communities and the families within them. The following story resonates with the struggle of thousands of such drought victims in East Africa. It is with the support of GlobalGiving and other donors that our efforts to create sustainable income generating activities to help improve the livelihood of poor families, like Dejene, will continue to build resistance to drought and subsequent famine in the region.
Dejene resides in Zamine Welishokebele, Damot Pullasa woreda, with his wife and 6 children. For the past 5 years Dejene had been working as a laborer and earned merely 20-30 birr per day. In addition, he collected and sold firewood for extra income. Due to his poor financial condition, he was struggling to provide for the basic needs of his family, including healthcare and education for his children.
Since 2013, International Medical Corps, through its ECHO-Resilience Building program in Kenya and Ethiopia, has been supporting sustainable livelihood programs for vulnerable populations in order to improve quality of life and reduce poverty.The program’s income generation activities provide donkeys and donkey carts for people, like Dejene, who are struggling to earn a living. The program also provides a five day training session on business skills and financial literacy, through which our beneficiaries are able to gain in depth knowledge on selecting, planning and managing suitable income generating activities as well as managing household resources. The program has benefitted over 340 households, resulting in improved quality of life.
In July 2013, Dejene, along with his other business partners, loaned a donkey and donkey carts through credit and saving cooperatives at 5,500.00 ETB. Dejene now owns one bull, which he was able to purchase through his savings and has savings of 1,520 ETB and 1,000 ET Bat Rural Saving and Credit Cooperative and Village Saving and Loan Association respectively. Dejene recollects the struggles that he and his family went through before he received our support. In his own words, he says,
“I haven’t forgotten our challenges we had to face due to food insecurity. I was not able to provide enough food for my family, and as a result, my children were becoming weak and losing interest in education. I wasn’t even able to lend my support to my wife during her pregnancy as I was busy making our ends meet. With the help of International Medical Corps program, I now earn 75 ETB per day on average, from my income generation activities and I engage myself for about 10-12 days every month in these activities. Now, my family has enough food to eat and my children go to school. In addition,I have planted improved maize seeds on 0.25 hal and by covering all production cost including cost of improved seedsand fertilizer. I share the crop income and crop expenses with the owner of the land. I hope, from now onwards, I will be in a better position to fulfill the needs of my family.”
Dejene is just one of many beneficiaries, whose life has changed for the better. Dejene now earns more than 600 ETB from his donkey and donkey cart business. While he is still working hard to ensure food security for his family, the lives of him and his family have certainly improved for the better. He wants to diversify his income opportunities and invest in animal fattening, parry trade, crop farming with land owners, and wants to construct an iron corrugated house through loans from saving and credit cooperatives in the near future. With the support of GlobalGiving and our generous donors, we will be able to further facilitate the achievement of goals such as these for Dejene and other families and communities just like his.
In a region as heavily impacted by severe drought that can result in wide scale crop failures and food insecurity as East Africa, preventing malnutrition remains a top priority. Diseases that exacerbate existing malnutrition, such as diarrheal diseases, are therefore a major concern. According to the World Health Organization, children who are malnourished or have impaired immunity are among those most at risk of life-threatening diarrhea. A significant proportion of diarrheal disease can be prevented through safe drinking-water and good sanitation and hygiene practices - making Global Handwashing Day a critically important event in Ethiopia, a country working to prevent malnutrition and ensure healthy futures for children and families.
International Medical Corps’ teams in Ethiopia have been working with local communities and refugees for years, encouraging healthy sanitation behaviors. Our International Medical Corps team regularly works with schools and children, recently working in the Ade Shento primary school to improve sanitation, hygiene and handwashing among its 650 students. With a new accessible latrine and handwashing facility, all the children at Ade Shento are now able to wash their hands easily and stay healthy.
Working with the next generation has been especially successful when children become agents for change themselves, taking messages back into their homes and teaching the whole family their newly acquired skills. In the Bokolmanyo refugee camp, school children are taking the power into their own hands and helping spread messages of handwashing to more than 42,000 members of their own community.
Building on this outreach, our team has marked Global Handwashing Day by spreading the word about the importance of washing your hands, with events in refugee camps and in communities around Ethiopia. In the Kobe, Mekadida and Bokolmayo refugee camps, events included singing, dancing, acting and games to spread the message of handwashing with soap. Outside of camps, in the rural Wolayita, East Hararghe and West Arsi communities, our team conducted sessions in local schools, appeals on local radio and a march in support of the day.
The generous support of Global Giving and other donors makes a huge difference to communities we serve, including helping us to continue our efforts to promote sanitation and hygiene in areas that they are so critically needed.
International Medical Corps has been operating in Somalia since 1991, when it became the first American non-governmental organization (NGO) to arrive in the war-torn Somali capital of Mogadishu after the overthrow of President Siad Barre. Throughout the past two decades, International Medical Corps has implemented health; nutrition; livelihoods; and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs in multiple locations of Somalia, implementing programs that build local health care capacity, while serving the immediate health needs of the most vulnerable men, women and children.
In October 2012, heavy rains in south central Somalia caused the region’s main river, the Shebelle, to reach its highest levels in 50 years, resulting in burst banks and unprecedented flooding. Beledweyne, a city with a population of 144,000, was one of the worst-affected areas and suffered severe damage to a wide range of critical public infrastructure and homes, which resulted in the extensive displacement of families.
The floods have had a particularly devastating effect on this community, which was already struggling to recover from the 2011 drought that destroyed their farms, livelihoods, and homes. An estimated 34,602 people displaced by the drought and then the flood currently reside in Beledweyne, and generally depend on shallow wells and boreholes to meet their domestic water needs, most of which were destroyed and/or heavily contaminated by the severe flooding. On average, these people must now travel 3-4 miles by foot to find clean water, as sourcing water from the Shebelle River and shallow wells now exposes them to dangerous, water-related diseases.
Over the last 18 months, International Medical Corps, with support from Global Giving and other donors, implemented a program in Beledweyne to ensure that the most vulnerable, including displaced persons, women and youth, have increased access to safe and reliable water supplies. To achieve this goal, International Medical Corps identified and rehabilitated three water sources; and trained local residents to act as water management committee members to ensure the rehabilitated water sources remain clean while also educating the community about proper water handling, storage and treatment techniques.
In order to deliver this program, International Medical Corps’ team in Beledweyne first conducted an assessment, in collaboration with the local community, to select the three most effective water points for rehabilitation. Selection criteria included:
The three communal water points selected for rehabilitation are located in three different communities in Beledweyne, helping to ensure access to clean water for the greatest number of people. Overall, the rehabilitation of the three wells now provides access to safe water for more than 1,500 households -- approximately 7,900 people!
The next step of the program was to select and train water management committee members to maintain the rehabilitated wells and teach the community proper water handling techniques. After consulting with community leaders, 15 water management committee members were identified from the villages with rehabilitated water sources (5 committee members per rehabilitated well).
Between March 11 and 12, 2014, the committee members took part in a comprehensive training, based on internationally-accepted standards, on water source management. In addition, they completed a one-day training on hygiene promotion together with community leaders selected in collaboration with village elders. The key tasks of these water management committee members includes promotion of safe water and sanitation practices and maintenance of the rehabilitated wells.
In addition to training water management committee members, teams provided a one-day training workshop to the communities surrounding the wells on March 12, 2014. Participants in this workshop included key community leaders from the areas most affected by waterborne diseases in recent years, including Buntaweyn, Kooshin, Hawataako and Hawlwadaag. A total of 21 participants received training on the effects of consuming contaminated water, and how to spread community awareness of the issue and treatment of contaminated water. Other topics covered included the importance of hygiene, for individuals and households, the importance of using safe water to clean and prepare food, and proper waste disposal.
Finally, International Medical Corps, in collaboration with other organizations working in Somalia and the previously trained community leaders, provided training to communities to increase awareness of the importance of protecting water sources. During this one-day community mobilization meeting, International Medical Corps used a hands-on, participatory approach to inspire action and encourage community members to take leading roles in the planning, management, monitoring and evaluation of their water sources.
Through the generous support of Global Giving and other donors, International Medical Corps was able to provide desperately needed clean water to communities affected by the 2011 drought and 2012 flooding in Beledweyne, Somalia benefitting 1,500 households and 7,900 people. With better access to clean water, families will be exposed to fewer waterborne diseases, improving their overall health. Moving forward, community members now have the skills to ensure that the rehabilitated water points continue to provide clean water for years to come and that hygiene messages and training are spread throughout the communities. Embedding skills in the community lies at the heart of International Medical Corps’ mission: building self-reliance.
Since 1998, International Medical Corps has worked alongside the Ministry of Health in Kenya to implement a variety of programs in underserved communities throughout the country, including health care, nutrition, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS prevention care and treatment, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Using a multi-pronged approach, International Medical Corps’ programs not only provide relief, but also enable self-reliance through education and training.
In 2007, International Medical Corps began work in the semi-arid regions of northern Kenya, including Samburu District, where water is very scarce and women and children walk miles to collect water on a daily basis. Samburu suffers from uneven rain across the district during the four months of rainy season. The people of Samburu are nomadic pastoralists, dependent on livestock and access to water for their livelihoods. Failure to obtain sufficient water for grazing livestock can mean the difference between life and death. The drought and famine crisis in 2011 created an emergency in Samburu, and the region has been fragile ever since. With support from generous donors, International Medical Corps is continuing its work in Samburu District and the region, aimed at improving provision of access to adequate and quality water, improving access to adequate and quality sanitation facilities to vulnerable community members, and improving the health and nutrition status of mothers and children.
In several rural primary schools in Samburu, International Medical Corps is implementing integrated activities aimed at improving the sanitation and hygiene of young children. Lolkunyian Primary School serves 247 students, drawing students from up to a three-hour walk away. Before International Medical Corps’ intervention, the male and female students had to share only three latrines, with no available hand washing stations and no access for disabled students. In response, International Medical Corps recently built two blocks of same-sex latrines, with three to four standard stalls and one stall specifically for persons with disabilities. Additionally, a hand washing station and water harvesting system has been installed to further promote hygiene-related health.
In Donyo Wasin Primary School, which serves 340 students, International Medical School has encouraged the formation of a Health Club to improve the hygiene practices of the students as well as the surrounding community. The Health Club, which is made up of 58 students (30 male and 28 female) from grades one through eight, performs songs and plays which teach sanitation and hygiene techniques for fellow students and the community. As a result of these activities, International Medical Corps has noted significant improvements in beneficiaries’ health, with fewer students visiting the school nurse with complaints of water related illnesses and a decrease in the practice of open defecation in the community.
In Nkutoto, villagers from the surrounding area travel great distances, particularly in the dry season, to reach the only viable water source that is located in the mountains. Unfortunately, this natural spring is unprotected, and is frequently contaminated by wild animal and livestock waste when they use the spring to drink. This contamination resulted in a small-scale cholera outbreak in 2013. After consulting with the community and the Ministry of Health, International Medical Corps constructed a pipeline to bring the water down the mountain, and is currently constructing a cover for the natural spring to protect it from future contamination. With the newly constructed water tap, the community no longer has to walk up the mountain, often with livestock in tow, to reach the water source.
Although the drought crisis has largely passed, International Medical Corps continues to engage the vulnerable population of Samburu District with water, sanitation, and hygiene programs designed to address both their immediate and long-term needs. International Medical Corps’ program is providing schools with improved sanitary facilities and promotion of appropriate hygiene practices, with the help of the health clubs, which will help to improve the quality of life of the children and the teachers, contribute to decreasing school dropout, and reduce communicable diseases such as diarrhea. In addition, the improved water sources, combined with training on how to protect and manage them, will help ensure a modest yet sustainable water supply for the community, improving the lives of mothers and children in this extremely water-scare environment.
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