Levels of illness and mortality secondary to water and soil-borne parasites present an enormous threat in Africa, with the elderly and children most vulnerable. Many people in the rural area of Makindu draw water directly from the river, which is a highly contaminated source. Others go to the nearest borehole, about 5 km walk from the town centre. Those farthest from a water source must walk up to 15 km daily for their household water needs. Lack of available water and the subsequent inability to maintain hygiene only increases the incidence of soil-borne pathogens, and transmission of many diseases. Resultant dehydration and anemia account for approximately 10% of deaths in Kenyan children less than five years of age. In addition, malaria — the second greatest killer next to AIDS in Africa –occurs more often in areas with lack of clean water.
MCC recognized these needs, and were inspired to design a project benefiting the entire Makindu community. We worked together with the local Kenyan Ministry of Water designing a plan to establish a water reservoir tank and system to supply all of Makindu town and area villages. Fundraising efforts began, and the Oregon Community Foundation committed to fund the entire cost of the venture. The project began in January 2002 with a host of volunteers, both local Kenyan community members as well as two Americans who came to Kenya to assist and oversee this endeavor. Local donations of labor, materials and services to the project comprised nearly 15% of the total project cost (very impressive, given the relative poverty of the region), allowing us to enlarge and enhance the project.
Two and a half months later the project was completed, with the construction of a 250 cubic metre reinforced masonry tank for the community, and a smaller tank supplying MCC. Since completion of the reservoir tank, the local town hospital now has daily water access. Even with the predictable and common electrical power shortages regionally, the water still reaches the hospital, main town water lines and village collection tanks via gravitational flow.
The success of our project inspired other regional non-profits to invest in the Makindu water scheme as well, including donations of a new water pump, water purification system, extended water lines, and many smaller water collection tanks for the outlying villages. Makindu’s new water reservoir tank now supplies the town plus 17 smaller community tanks and water kiosks distributed throughout the region. Consequently, these villages have daily access to water with continuous water reserve in their tanks. Thanks to the efforts of MCC and the generous donation of the Oregon Community Foundation, clean and potable water is currently available to approximately 17,000-20,000 people. The longest walk to the nearest water kiosk is now decreased to no more than 1-2 km in the most remote villages.