NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 22 – Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living at Jikaze IDP Camp in Mai-Mahiu are appealing to the government and well-wishers to repair a water pump that broke down leaving the residents without water.
The residents are forced to trek for hours through a difficult terrain caused by El Nino rains.
“The biggest problem we have is lack of water. We had a water pump donated to us by a well-wisher. It has now broken down. We have nowhere near where we can buy water for now,” Miriam Waithera, a resident of Jikaze explained.
“We walk all the way to Muniu – the hill on the other side to borrow water. Because of the distance, I can only get one jerican of water which we have to depend on for the entire day,” she said.
It’s about 11am and the sky is clear blue. The heat from the scorching sun is almost unbearable.
But 51-year-old Waithera braves herself to walk for kilometers in search of water to fill her 20 litre jerican. Waithera is among the 650, 000 people displaced during the 2008 post poll chaos that also left over 1,000 others dead.
She is part of the 143 families resettled at the Jikaze IDP camp.
The mother of three unties a leso wrapped around her waist and folds it to act as a rope.
After fastening the folded leso on a small handle on top of her yellow jerican, she hangs it on her shoulder and begins the long trek.
Waithera has to cross the busy Nairobi, Mai-Mahiu Road frequented by fleets of lorries and speeding cars plying the route. After about 10 minutes of waiting to ensure the road is clear, Waithera runs across to Muniu an area she hopes to find water.
But after an easy walk on a narrow path, she comes across another challenge.
She has to walk down and climb a deep gulley of about 7 metres wide and 30 feet deep. The gulley has small slippery hills with loose soil lumps.
She knows if she slips she can join the statistics of neighbours who died or broke their backs after suffering a fall in the dangerous gulley.
“Crossing the gulley when carrying light luggage – even a kilogram of sugar – is a problem. You struggle to walk down and up, you use your hands and even walk on knees because it is very slippery and deep,” she explains.
During the rainy season; “we don’t dare to cross, the gulley is filled with water and people even drown in it.”
Before crossing the gulley, residents seem to pause and calculate how they make their movements to ensure they don’t suffer a fall. Waithera takes every step carefully as she climbs down and up the valley with her empty jerican still hanging on her shoulder. Even after crossing on the other side, she has to move from house to house borrowing water.
“Sometimes we can be given water, other times we are denied by people in Muniu. If you are unlucky, you just pray to God to give you energy to climb Kijabe hills where we can get water. This means leaving home in the morning and returning in the evening,” she says.
Fortunately, she meets 66-year-old David Waweru, who fills her jerican with water.
Though the former teacher is used to giving water to residents especially the PEV victims settled at the Jikaze IDP camp, he says water is a serious crisis even for those who pay for the services.
“When IDPs were resettled at Jikaze, they came borrowing water from us. I used to get over 20 of them borrowing water from me everyday. I was sympathetic and I always allowed them to fetch water from my place.
I don’t know what is wrong with women, she forces me to give water to women who come borrowing water even if we have so little left,” Waweru explained.
Waweru has dug three water pans on his farm to collect water during the rainy season. But due the effects of the global climate change, the last rainy spell left the dams partially filled. Now, two of them are dry while one has little water to serve him for the next few days.
Like other residents of Muniu, Waweru has access to piped water once a month.
Waithera is happy she has her jerican filled with water. Resting it on her back with the leso supporting it on her forehead, she begins her journey back home.
It is very dangerous to walk down the gulley with such a heavy load. Waithera has to remove her shoes and hurl them down the gulley.
It is disturbing to learn that Waithera and other families at the Jikaze IDP camp lack water because of Sh27,000.
James Njoroge also an IDP at Jikaze is in charge of the borehole adjacent to the camp.
“This borehole was dug in 2009 but it was not functioning because we did not have a water pump. This water is hot, it’s about 60 degress hot, and so it needs a special pump. The embassy of Poland gave us a pump and we always had water until it broke down,” he explained.
Njoroge and other displaced persons at Jikaze are now appealing to well-wishers and the government to come to their aid. He says the water pump can be repaired at the cost of Sh27, 000.
Waweru also believes the water can be adequate to serve Muniu, Mai-Mahiu and neighbouring locations if the government makes connections to tap it from Kijabe Hills.
“But if we can get water from Kijabe Hills, due to gravity the water will easily come to the people as they live below the hills. We cannot even lack food if this is done.”
Muniu and Jikaze residents also are requesting the government to construct a bridge across the dangerous gulley which not only makes it hard for them to access water but also for school going children.
Waithera who is also a community health worker says it is difficult for her to attend to patients in the two locations especially where they have to cross the gulley to take a patient to a dispensary.
“My work is very hard. Sometimes a patient is very sick. It is already hard for me to cross it so it is hard even to help a sick person to cross. The old people refuse to seek medical attention because they can’t cross the gulley,” she lamented.
People at Jikaze live in small houses constructed for them by the government after they were displaced from different locations during the post election violence.
Some of them who engage in small economic activities such as briquette making businesses and small scale farming have all stalled their activities due to lack of water at Jikaze.
Their only hope is that a well-wisher or the government will restore their water pump to end their misery.