Imagine walking for up to 12 hours in search of the nearest water source. When you get there you find the water has been polluted by livestock drinking and urinating in it. You’re tired. You’re thirsty. But, because it rains just twice a year, you have no choice but to use that water to cook, clean and wash.

For millions of women and children in Kenya’s rural drylands, life is darkened by the eminent cloud of grief from the number of victims that fall ill due to the lack of clean water. The cross contamination and use of unprotected water, often results in children being plagued by waterborne diseases such as bilharzias; a parasite that causes diarrhoea. A disturbing 525,000 children under the age of 5 die each year from something as curable as diarrhoea. The need has never been greater to stop the suffering. Of those that survive, a bright future isn’t promised with most schools in Kenya without a water source, children have to bring their own water to school. Failing to do so means they have to walk for long distances in a bid to find water or they’ll be sent home, missing out on the vital education.

For women, the consequences are as life-threatening. Even whilst heavily pregnant, often alone, and far away from medical help, some women give birth on the journey to or from water points. In the worst cases, there have been instances where the ongoing strain of carrying water for miles, day after day, has caused miscarriages and stillbirths. No woman should have to endure this.

Charles Mutua Syeviti from Ithime self-help group (pictured right) told us of the problems that communities in Kenya face: “We used to fetch water from two rivers; River Athi, which is 12KM away, and River Yiu, which is at least 15KM away. Because of the long distances of these two points, women would leave in the darkness, very early in the morning where there are dangers of encountering wild animals along the way. There’s an incident where one of our community members, her name was Nzengela, she was knocked down by elephants on her way to fetch water. She was killed instantly.”

Thankfully, there is a solution. Supporting people in drylands to build sand dams, which provide a local supply of water, means that less people women and children have to bear the burden and risk their lives. Can you help by making a donation that will stop the suffering of communities living in drylands?

Charles Mutua Syeviti from Ithime self-help group, told us of the problems that rural communities in Kenya face:

Communities in rural Kenya have no choice but to use unfiltered, unprotected water to survive and accomplish daily chores. The land is so dry within the region that when it does rain, up to 85% is simply lost as run-off with nowhere for it to be stored. Sand dams are the solution to trap this water; providing thousands of people with easier access to a lifetime of clean water. A reliable source of water is the much-needed lifeline in repairing the devastated lives of women and children whose days are filled with the gruelling task of fetching water for up to 12 hours a day. You can be a part of the change, by making a donation today. Communities can collect some of the materials to build a sand dam from their local area – like rocks and sand – but the cost of the cement, barbed wire, steel bars and tools they need is beyond their means.

“Because of a lack of regular bathing, and the lack of washing and cleaning clothes on a regular basis, most of our community members can attest to being attacked by lice. And other than that, there was a range of sickness; malaria diarrhoea and stomach problems... When people drank that dirty water, their stomach would erupt.” - Charles Mutua Syeviti, Ithime self-help group.

Will you stop the suffering and give a dam? A donation of £60 could provide a roll of barbed wire – an essential component to reinforce a sand dam – to enable people in drylands to free themselves from the endless drudgery of collecting water, and have time to grow enough food to feed and support their families.

Having a local supply of water also means that children no longer have to spend valuable time out of lessons, fetching water and missing out on an education. Most importantly, it means there will be fewer deaths of children who fall prey to waterborne diseases, dying before their lives have even begun. With access to safe water, the possibilities are endless as communities have the chance to become self-sufficient and grow their own food to eat and sell; generating an income at the market.

Here are some ways in which your donation could support a self-help group to build a sand dam, providing a local supply of water much closer to home:

  • £120 could provide a community with a wheelbarrow and 10 bags of cement to help them construct their sand dam
  • £80 could provide 500 seedling and a spray pump to protect the tree nursery from decimation by insects
  • £60 could provide a community with a roll of barbed wire to reinforce their sand dam and keep it anchored to the bedrock
  • £30 could supply a community with a rake, gardening fork, shovel and watering cans to plant fruit trees for fuel and fodder
  • £15 could provide a dryland farmer with drought-tolerant seeds to grow a reliable source of fresh food for their children

As Charles explains, water transforms lives:

“We are proud of the sand dam we have constructed, because it has enabled us to have access to clean water, and this also impacts our livestock. Before the dam, we would walk our livestock to River Athi which is 12km away, and there was a lot of dust, causing lung problems for our livestock, health issues and some would even die. But now that livestock can get water nearby, their bodily conditions have improved, and a small goat can fetch between 3,000-4,000 Kenyan shillings, that kind of money will sort you and your family, help you to pay for school fees, and there will be no fights for resources, water or food.”

Those in Charles’ community no longer have to suffer the drought and risk their lives drinking contaminated water. But there are too many women and children who still have to endure a life without clean water. Will you help us prevent more tragedies by making a donation today?

People living in drylands have already achieved so much this year. There are so many success stories – so many people who have grasped the opportunity you have given them with both hands, working day in day out, fuelled by their determination to secure a local water supply for themselves, their mothers, their sisters, their sons and daughters.

Please consider donating today, to help us meet our urgent need. Your donation will ensure that fewer women and children have to face the terrible health consequences of collecting and using unprotected water, and more families can begin to thrive.

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