WAJIR, Kenya (September 26, 2011) — At the side of the road in one of the most remote parts of Wajir in northeast Kenya, a flurry of activity buzzed around a covered water tank.
The tanker had just delivered a long awaited supply of water, and in the current emergency, everyone in town wanted to make sure they got their fair share before it ran out. In one of the hardest-hit regions of the drought-ravaged north of the country, even the youngest children were helping out with the water dispersal.
Hawa Noor, age 4, was at the front of the group, holding a funnel made from a cut-down water bottle, so her uncle Ismail Hussein, 22, could fill up their containers. Living in a community which relies solely on truck-delivered water, Ismail voiced his concern over the inconsistent deliveries.
"We need water every day in the current drought," he said. "Sometimes it can be a couple of weeks between deliveries."
Unfortunately, even communities who draw water from wells are struggling given the severity of this drought.
At a UNICEF-supported girls' school on the outskirts of Wajir, a glance down one of the several wells revealed the water level was desperately low. To keep the school supplied, the wells needed to be much deeper. Further out in west Wajir, the situation was even worse, with the shallower wells no longer functioning at all.
Outside the dusty town of Griftu, villagers and their livestock congregated around one of the wells still deep enough to work. "You see as you go deeper down, you get more water," explained water and sanitation engineer and supervisor for Islamic Relief, Jesee Wahome, adding that villagers have had to dig progressively deeper as the drought has worsened.
Finding long-term water solutions in these remote areas is essential in stopping communities from being displaced with all the disruption it causes—especially for children.
"We have seen in Wajir from village to village we have gone to, that one of the major reasons people are having to migrate is because they are looking for water for themselves, as well as for their families," said Victor Chinyama of UNICEF.
Griftu Primary School is one such example of a long-term solution. A solar powered water pump provides a constant supply of water to a newly built water tank. That in turn has allowed for the construction of segregated toilets for boys and girls, encouraging greater school enrolment and facilitating better hygiene education.
Such measures help support long-standing UNICEF goals, which have to be pursued in spite of the current emergency. "These things are intertwined," said Victor Chinyama. “When there’s water there have to be toilets. And when there are toilets, children have to be taught how to maintain better hygiene practices, even in this context.”
In this emergency, innovative solutions are helping solve immediate needs, while building for a more self-reliant future, with sustainable water options.