Kenya: Tana Residents Risk Lives in Wells as Drought Bites

Adverse water scarcity has pushed residents in Bura and areas of Galole constituencies, in Tana River County, to dangerous limits in the quest to find water.

The biting drought has affected more than 12,000 people in these areas, forcing residents to risk their lives, by digging dangerous wells.

In Lakole location, a group of men and women took two months to dig 18 feet shallow well, where nine people line up from the entrance to the water table to draw water for their livestock and domestic use.

The last two people on the line-up cannot be seen, as only their voices can be heard.

To access the segments to the water table, a branch of a tree is used as a ladder, passed from one person to the other.

“This has been our life for the last 20months, and we have adapted to it so far, we were promised a lot during elections, we only asked for water, but even that has not been delivered,” says Ibrahim Dakane, an elder.

The rains were last seen in the area in November 2019, as a result, all the water pans and water reservoirs dried up.

The roads were washed away, and in its place, thorny shrubs sprung up, making it difficult to deliver help to the residents.

“We don’t have a phone network in this place, the last time the county government did anything here was dig a water pan in 2014. We haven’t seen anyone since then,” says Kanchoru Galgalo, a resident.

According to Mr Galgalo, more than seven people have died in the wells while trying to draw water.

In other cases, the walls of the wells caved in burying people alive.

“We have lost women, men, and even children trying to draw water from these wells, one slid from the top where she was positioned to receive water from and broke her spine at the bottom of the well,” says Fatuma Roba, a resident.

Each village cluster has its shallow well dug by its people and is used for seven months, before it dries up and another spot is identified for digging.

Most of the families that have lost loved ones in the wells have chosen to travel with their donkeys 52km away, to fetch water at a water pan whose water is now suspected of being toxic.

“The water pan in Take and Walestokocha has been the source of life for these people, but the water has turned green and unsafe for use,” says Hirimani Ward Boss Ishamael Kodobo.

According to the MCA, Tana County promised to dig a borehole for the residents and surveyed the area for potential water spot in 2018, marked it but is yet to drill a well.