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Most of the world’s 1.2 billion poor people, two thirds of whom are women, live in water-scarce countries and do not have access to safe and reliable supplies of water for productive and domestic uses (IFAD 2001a). The bulk of these rural poor people are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods and live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the regions which are also home to most of the world’s water poor (Molden 2007).

One third of the world’s population is currently experiencing some kind of physical or economic water scarcity. A growing competition for water from different sectors, including industry, agriculture, power generation, domestic use, and the environment, is making it difficult for poor people to access this scarce resource for productive, consumptive and social uses. In water-scarce regions and countries, inequity in access to water resources is increasing because of competition for limited resources, and this particularly affects poor rural people, especially women. (International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): http://www.ifad.org/gender/thematic/water/gender_water.pdf)
According to baseline data collected for the “RIPAT for peace project” implemented by a CAFOD Partner – Caritas Maralal , availability of a water source in a village does not guarantee safety for those who need to access water for livestock, farming or household use. Safety is determined by tribe. Some sources of water are only safe for Samburus, others only safe for Turkanas and others solely safe for Pokots.

It is estimated that women in many developing countries walk for an average of about 6 kilometres a day to collect water (UNFA 2002). When water supplies are scarce women have to look for alternatives. They also take care of house hold members who suffer from water borne diseases. Access to clean and safe water reduces tasks for women and girls. In Maralal town, in Samburu County; girls in Loikas boarding school have to leave the school compound to fetch water from a well, that is 1km away, for laundry and personal use. This does not guarantee safety of the girls as they interact with the neighboring communities, it eats up time that they would have used for studying and when they get tired because of covering some distance to fetch water it affects their learning pattern. During drought the students have to share scarce water with the community.
CAFOD in partnership with Caritas Maralal have implemented a number of water projects in Samburu. They include drilling of community boreholes in Charda, Lekiji and Remote, Rehabilitation of rock catchments in Lpus, Mabati , Nkorika and Lodukome. According to a Hazard Vulnerability and Capacity assessment conducted in Lchoro Lelerai in January 2015, Water Borne diseases are among the hazards that affect people of this village. That is about 25 Kilometres from Maralal town and about 5 Kilometres from Kisima Health centre. Women are charged with the task of fetching water for domestic and livestock use. The village has an earth dam that is not functional and all participants said that they do not have toilets. They have resorted to open defecation.
Through the CAFOD supported Integrated Food Security project we plan to rehabilitate earth dams in Lolmolog, Lpuss in year one and 2. Also we have formed seven Community Resource management committees in Lolmolog, Angata, Kirimon, Porro, Lekiji, Remote and Lchakwai. Part of their responsibility is to advocate for issues that affect their community. These issues include as scarcity of water and also draw up action points on how to address these issues.

Through the Match Funds project, CAFOD has funded the provision of bio sand filters in Amaiya. The cholera outbreak in 2010 claimed the lives of about 100 people in this village. In 2015, the people source water for domestic and livestock use in one river. Take a walk in Amaiya and you’ll see people taking a bath in this river up stream, go further down you’ll see others doing laundry in the same river and go further down you’ll see livestock taking water and other people fetching water for domestic use. Clean and safe drinking water is a far cry from reality in some region of Northern Kenya.

As we work to ensure that the communities we serve are food secure even during times of drought we must also work to achieve a gender balance through meeting the practical and strategic, needs and interests, of women and girls. Women in developing countries need to access clean and safe drinking water and their security should also be guaranteed. Also, they need to be involved in community decision making. Women and girls should also be key informants during needs assessments that are carried out to Identify the priority needs of the community.