New solar-powered borehole helps prevent spread of famine

Instead of trekking for dirty water and risking cattle-raid attacks, students and families in Loyapat, Kenya, now safely access clean water, and can even grow food and plant trees.

Photos and story Lucy Murunga. Edited by Rachael Boyer.
Published November 18, 2011 at 12:00am PST

Students braved the hot, rough terrain on bare feet as they took a treacherous journey to collect water.

For most, this was the closest thing to a meal, dirty as it was. It kept them alive in Kenya’s dry Turkana region, which has long struggled with severe drought.

For the children of Loyapat Primary School, their journey down the river was a dangerous gamble. According to the United Nations, merciless cattle raiders in Turkana killed 111 people just in 2010.

“We feared that we may get killed, and our parents feared that, too,” explains Abigail, a fifth-grade student.

“But the water was very critical to keeping us alive. Every time we embarked on a journey to the river, there was a wave of fear that came over us, and we would pray to God that they spare our lives.”

They only had their teachers to protect them, who were armed with guns to deter the raiders. They escorted their pupils to the river to collect water to quench their thirst and even take a bath, which was also a coping mechanism to cool their overheated bodies. All the while, their teachers kept a watchful vigil.

A water breakthrough

A herd boy quenches his thirst at a water borehole that was constructed by World Vision in July 2011.Finally, in August of this year, they found relief, thanks to a new World Vision water project. For the first time in their life, the residents of Loyapat had clean, safe water right at the heart of their village.

“We have journeyed from very far, [and] just recently we did not have this water facility and I watched the children struggle to get water,” explains Steve Omelo, senior teacher at the school. “It pained my heart that the children could not access a basic commodity like water.”

Steve recalls recent circumstances. “The children drank the dirty water from the river even though it posed a health risk. It was the only water source available,” he says.

“I just cannot express how relieved I am to see clean water flowing, and the children can easily and safely access it. The water has saved the children a lot of time, as now more time is used to study,” he adds.

We’re not done yet

The solar-powered water borehole project uses a pumping system to transport water to the villages through a pipeline system to an elevated water tank. The water is then gravity-fed to the water kiosk located right at the heart of the village.

According to Duncan Kandie, World Vision’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) officer, bringing the water into the village center means reduced incidences of attacks. But it’s not just students who are benefiting from the project.

“As soon as we connect the water pipelines to two more villages, then the list of the people accessing clean water will continue to grow,” says Duncan. “Currently, 3,500 families, one school, and a dispensary are benefiting from the borehole.”

The trickle-down effect

These students in Kenya's drought-stricken Turkana region enjoy safe access to clean water, thanks to a World Vision borehole.For 35-year-old Alice Lokamar, a mother of 10, the water borehole will enable her to concentrate on other tasks, like preparing meals for her family — something she had no time to do previously.

“I used [to spend] more than five hours looking for water, but now the water is just a minute away from my house,” Alice says. “I can now invest more time in tending my kitchen garden.”

With water now within reach, the school recently began planning a new project to increase the number of trees in the area.

“We hope the tree project will transform this school and its environment,” Steve says. In the future, those trees will give shade and help guard against drought.

Ways you can help

World Vision thanks everyone who has offered support in responding to the drought, food crisis, and famine in the Horn of Africa. Donations and prayers are both greatly appreciated. You can also help by sharing information about this humanitarian emergency with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.

Please pray specifically for aid organizations like World Vision to reach those who are suffering most — particularly in presently inaccessible areas of Somalia, where famine has been declared in multiple regions. Pray also for rain to come to this parched region of Africa, and for relief to be delivered to families who are struggling just to survive.

Make a one-time gift to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will multiply five times to help provide emergency food, healthcare, and other critical assistance to this suffering part of the world. Also, consider donating to our Clean Water Fund to help bring safe water to villages like Loyapat.

Speak out. Urge our legislators to prioritize the needs of those suffering from hunger and disease.