By Timothy Carter, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program manager in Tana River County, Kenya
A slight breeze rustled the leaves of the gum tree, providing temporary relief from the scorching heat. The slow, steady voice of Mr. Jare echoed in our ears as we gathered under the shade on mats made from camel skin.
Every hygiene training session conducted by Samaritan’s Purse in Tana River County begins with storytelling by the participants. Humorous stories often are presented regarding a lack of knowledge on hygiene and sanitation.
But on that bright, sunny day, no laughter could be heard in this remote village of Eastern Kenya. The group of community health workers and water committee members was dead silent as Mr. Jare told a story about his community.
Since independence, water and sanitation issues have been a daily, life and death struggle for the residents of Titila. During times of drought, residents were forced to walk more than 18 miles in search of water for home use. Many children were unable to attend school because most of the day was spent in search of this precious commodity.
Due to the remote location of water sources, women were more vulnerable and exposed to dangers while drawing water. Frequently, wells were dug by hand 30 feet down. No pump was available, so it was necessary to climb down into the well in order to draw water. On more than one occasion, people have died and then been buried in the wells as the weak soil collapsed on top of them.
Tears could be seen streaming down the face of many women in the group as Mr. Jare narrated the horrific events. But this year, the residents of Titila are rejoicing. It was one of over 30 communities targeted by Samaritan’s Purse to provide water during the severe East African drought crisis of 2011.
Deep gratitude could be seen on the face of Mr. Jare and his peers as they expressed appreciation for the life-saving support from Samaritan’s Purse during a critical time of need. In addition to water tank installation, emergency water trucking, soap and jerry can distribution, and hygiene training, Samaritan’s Purse is working with the residents of Titila to rehabilitate the community water pan.
The rehabilitation will help to sustain their only source of water during the dry season, thereby increasing resilience to future drought.
As Mr. Jare sat back down on his mat, a famous African saying rang clearly in our hearts and minds—water is life.
Not only do we want to bring life to these people through our water programs, but we also want them to know of the living water that only Jesus offers—a water that will quench their thirst for life for eternity.