Access to clean water keeps kids safe in more ways than one

By Stephen Court, World Vision Australia Portfolio Manager for Kenya

When collecting water puts lives at risk

We do the work we do to transform lives and in some cases to save lives. This was brought home to me recently when I went to the Lower Yatta community in Kenya.

This area is prone to frequent prolonged droughts, thus, year round access to safe, clean water remains the main challenge in the community and their top priority when asked.

A majority of the households get their water from River Athi. Most children walk long distances to get there – some 7-10 kilometres – and miss attending school. The river is heavily inhabited by crocodiles that pose a great danger to adults and children. In this project alone, three children have been attacked by crocodiles. One child died, while the other two boys survived but were left with large scars on their legs.

This is devastating – not only for the child and their family, but also for our staff and the supporters who sponsor these children.

Joshua was attacked by a crocodile as he was fetching water at River Athi and was fortunately rescued by his brother. ‘’I came home from school and went to the river to fetch water for my parents and I was attacked by a crocodile. I screamed for help and I was rescued by my brother. The crocodile was dragging me into the river. I thank God I survived. I have now fully recovered and am back at school.”

Savali, in grade two, came from school one afternoon and went to the river to fetch water for his family. “I finished filling my five litre container with water at the shore. While I was just about to move away, a crocodile grabbed me by my legs and dragged me into the river, I screamed and two women who were on their way to collect water rescued me and I was taken to the hospital. I thank God for saving me. I thank World Vision for their support.”

With over 95 percent of the community accessing water this way, it was a big job to bring change to prevent further attacks.

Working towards a safer future

World Vision started working here in 2012. During the first nine months, the project team worked with different members of the community; children, their parents and caregivers, local civil society organisations, government, service providers (health and social workers, teachers and school management), local NGOs and the business community to get a clearer picture around all areas of water, sanitation and hygiene within their communities.

In the years since, World Vision has partnered with the government to assist in the formation, strengthening and capacity building of water users’ committees, and in training these groups on the operation and maintenance of their water systems.

Beyond that, World Vision focused on extending water pipelines to schools and other centres to reduce the distances children had to go to get water. Access to water for livestock was also improved, and access to water in schools has helped establish school orchards that are beneficial for students.

World Vision has also invested in the development of more major infrastructure. Three 50,000 litre masonry tanks were constructed to collect rain water during the wet season. A Public Private Partnership Memorandum of understanding with the county government of Kitui and another World Vision project in the county was jointly signed to distribute water from the river Athi to the two project areas. From just this project alone, over 10,000 community members will have vastly improved access to low cost safe water – this number represents 30 percent of the total Lower Yatta project population.

World Vision’s work bringing clean water closer is helping to keep children away from crocodile-infested rivers and reducing the time it takes for them to collect water daily – meaning they have more time for school.

Transforming and saving the lives of children is what World Vision is all about. World Vision field teams, like that of the Lower Yatta project team, work so hard at understanding the needs of the communities and journeying with them in partnership to see change take place. Together, with the incredible support of donors to these projects, we can continue to enrich the lives of children and their communities.

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