Saturday, February 13, 2010

Water Walks

It’s impossible to be in this part of the world and not think about water. It’s hot; you’re thirsty. It’s dusty; you’re filthy. You’re trying not to fantasize about flushing toilets. You can’t stop envisioning the horrifying Guinea worm.

That’s Day One. It’s Day Two when you notice the children – ten, eight, six, younger - carrying jerry cans, plastic buckets, containers of all sorts, full of water. At first, such a novelty what they can balance on their heads! But by Day Three they are haunting you. They are everywhere, these young children that American mothers would never leave alone, and certainly not send miles away to fetch water. They are carrying twenty pounds up the rocky slopes with grace as you stumble with exhaustion behind them. Driving, you see them on the hillside in the distance winding barefoot paths through the trees. They pass you on the road at dusk.

Kids (and women) have to do this because access to clean water is pretty rare around here. Some scarcity is attributable to natural causes, but in Karagwe lack of water access is often the result of poor infrastructure, both physical and social. The results of this are devastating; hours each day spent gathering water are hours not spent attending school, cultivating crops, or generating income. Two NGOs Amizade works with – Mavuno and WOMEDA – are addressing this problem at the family and community level. One approach involves installing tanks to store captured rain water. We’ve been able to visit a few project sites this week.

This grandmother has taken in four of her grandchildren, two of whom are infected with HIV. Jato, in the picture, suffers from full-blown AIDS. Amizade funds paid for this WOMEDA tank, which collects rainwater that falls on the roof of their home. The tank saves Jato and his siblings from traveling over three kilometers to the nearest available water source.

This family had a two hour walk to their water source. The local water committee identified them as “highest priority need” and approached WOMEDA for help with the project. The tank was installed by Amizade students during the summer of 2009.

This reservoir, partially funded by Amizade, was dug entirely by hand-shovel. Mavuno is building the reservoir to service the nearby community, but it will one day provide drinking water for an on-site girls dormitory and school.

This water tank services a family of eleven. As with their other projects, Mavuno asked the recipient family to dig the hole and collect rocks to anchor the cement. In partnership with other organizations, Mavuno then provided the materials and installation. This was the most difficult-to-access location we visited, requiring a hike of at least one kilometer from the nearest navigable roadway. Here is a view that sets the home in context:

Here we are walking to the home – a portion of the distance this family needed to travel to gather water each day:

It turns out that there is a walk that you can do to aid Mavuno, WOMEDA, and Amizade in the effort to expand water access to those in need. The third annual Water Walk for Women’s Rights will be taking place this April. (Please follow the link by clicking on “Water”.) If you live in the area, you can participate by fundraising and joining in the walk. Even if you don’t live in the area, you can still help with fundraising or by making a donation.

No comments:

Post a Comment