Marsabit county in northern Kenya is one of the most beautiful places in the country, with undulating grassland and savanna that are often showed off on tourism promotions. But lately, the county has been anything but paradise.
Kenya, already a water scarce country where only 56% of the population have cleaning drinking water, is now struggling with droughts that have left 500,000 people without clean water.
Among them are residents of a village in Marsabit, who decided to serve dirty water to their leaders to protest their lack of clean water.
The residents were unimpressed that instead of meeting the community to discuss prioritising access to water, county officials wanted to have discussions about forming a municipal board. The boards are funded by the World Bank, and are aimed at improving infrastructure in various counties around Kenya.
Bottles of muddy water placed at the ‘high table’ for dignitaries as they visited Karare area in Marsabit to urge residents support establishment of a municipality. "Our problem is water, not a municipality," the residents told the visiting delegation. #MarsabitWaterpic.twitter.com/Y0mMX5nd6M— Robin Njogu (@robinnjogu) February 11, 2019
Nairobi News reports that several officials who went to Karare Ward were met by a group of women bearing bottles of muddy water who came to a meeting held to discuss the board.
The women then demanded that the county stop discussion on municipal boards and instead give them water, according to Nairobi News.
One of the leaders at the meeting, Asunta Galgotelli, said that residents wanted leaders to discuss piped water and land registration before other municipal plans.
Three years ago, the Marsabit County Department of Water, Environment, and Natural Resources developed a water and sanitation policy promising to prioritise protecting water resources and increasing sources of water.
“The department takes cognizance the fact that safe, potable, and affordable water plays a key role in advancing the Marsabit county’s social and economic agenda on economic recovery and poverty reduction,” according to the policy document.
Marsabit, like other counties in northern Kenya, has been struggling with water shortages caused by droughts that the country had been experiencing between 2014 and 2018. In 2017, then Northern Water Services Board (NWSB), which serves counties that include Marsabit, said nearly 2 million people and thousands of their livestiock urgently needed water supply.
One of the targets set by the policy was increasing water availability and access to 80% by 2017.
But residents say the county has failed to deliver, and complain that Laisamis sub-county and Karare Ward have not benefitted from development projects.
"The water crisis [in sub-Saharan Africa] is affecting women, children, families and farmers," says The Water Project, a non-proft that helps countries in sub-Saharan Africa gain access to clean water, on its website. "Women and girls are spending hours a day fetching dirty water, which leads to illness and disease, robbing entire communities of their futures."
This makes water security a vital elemenet in Global Citizen's mission to ending extreme poverty by 2030.