By Benard Ogoi
A seasonal dam at the hill slopes of Sololo town, Moyale Constituency
Access to clean and safe water is one of the economic and social rights enshrined in Kenya’s 2010 Constitution. Without such, the ability to enjoy reasonable standards of sanitation as well as credible health standards becomes untenable. In essence, a population that struggles to access clean water is prone to unprecedented health problems, which then bears heavily on their economic might.
This has been the situation in Sololo town, Moyale Constituency where both domestic and wild animals compete with the residents for a share of the scarce water from Ramata Dam to quench their thirst after a long days search for pasture.
The dam popularly known as ‘Silanga’ therefore means more than just a dependable water point as residents associate it with unmatched cases of diarrhea and other water borne diseases.
A herder in Sololo location, Moyale Constituency
Surprisingly, even women have defied the dangers of drinking or cooking using the water without treating, ignoring even the most basic water treatment process, boiling. Instead they argue that, “Boiled water has a bad odour which discourages us from taking it,” says Elizabeth, revealing the consequence of the contaminated water in her hands. “I was recently admitted in hospital for five days after I was diagnosed with stomachache,” she explains.
It is a situation that Fatuma Wario describes as most wanting especially for the women who have tolerated water borne diseases since independence. “We are always affected but we have no capacity to do anything,” she remarks.
Fatuma Wario of Borole women group explaining a point on the water scarcity
Joseph Galgalo, a victim of the unhygienic water blames it all on their behavior. “Most of us take the water in raw form thus contributing to cases of diarrhea and typhoid in our families,” he explains, adding that they normally don’t boil the water despite firewood being in plenty in the area. “Sololo is hot and boiled water is difficult to cool in readiness for drinking,” remarks Hassan Halkano, another resident of the town.
According to Martha Jilo, Sololo women group chairlady, “We know the water is harmful but we have no choice. We have to use the water every day since it is the only hope for us.” Martha who once suffered from Typhoid declares, “It is difficult to boil water for over 10 people in the home,” adding, “…. so we just take it as it is despite the dangers.” Like most residents, she has no time to fetch enough firewood for boiling the water.
They are also skeptical about using water guard due to high costs and cultural beliefs. They have no choice but to continue taking it raw. “Most shops don’t even stock the product due to low demand by the residents,” remarks Halkano. He says poverty among locals has made shopkeepers in Sololo town not to stock water-guard in their shops. While concurring with him, Galgalo says the smell of chlorine is also unpleasant to most of them. But even disheartening is that some culturally believe that chlorine is itself unhealthy and therefore unacceptable, making water treatment untenable.
This scenario depicts lack of information on prudent and safe use of water for domestic consumption in the area that largely experiences dry spells.
To ensure environmental sustainability is achieved in line with goal number seven of the MDGs, the Constitution in Article 70 provides for redress mechanisms that would ensure access to a clean environment. This also includes the ability of communities to access clean water for domestic use. “People need relevant information on the importance of treating water before use,” says Galgalo.
The residents have urged the National and County governments to support them by drilling enough boreholes that can help them access clean and safe water for domestic consumption. “If a common tank can be built and water treated in it then it can be good for the community,” says Galgalo.