APPEAL FOR STATE HELP

Turkana residents lament water scarcity, blame county for laxity

Water and Mineral Resources executive Joseph Namuar says they are trying to fix boreholes

In Summary

• Animals and people have died, many others displaced and no borehole has been repaired, they said. 

• Last month, Governor Josphat Nanok said county staff were on the ground to fix the mess. He toured the area to assess the damage. 

Children scoop out a shallow well from which to draw water at a seasonal river in Kawalase, Turkana
Children scoop out a shallow well from which to draw water at a seasonal river in Kawalase, Turkana
Image: HESBORN ETYANG
Residents of Canaan in Lodwar Turkana County queue to buy water after their boreholes were destroyed by floods
Residents of Canaan in Lodwar Turkana County queue to buy water after their boreholes were destroyed by floods
Image: HESBORN ETYANG

The Turkana government is doing little to fix the water crisis that has become synonymous with the county for years.

This is the feeling of residents, who have now urged the national government to intervene and repair the boreholes left in ruins by floods.

Yesterday, they accused county staff of laxity even in the face of massive losses caused by raging floodwaters. Animals and people have died, many others displaced and no borehole has been repaired, they said. 

Reached for comment, county Water and Mineral Resources executive Joseph Namuar said they are “trying to fix the boreholes”.

“We are trying our best to repair the damaged boreholes. The two that serve residents of Nakwamekwi were totally damaged by flooding. We are trucking water to the most-affected regions to ensure residents get clean water for domestic use,” he told The Star, adding the problem will be no more come next week. 

The boreholes in Lodwar serve about 70,000 people. Last month, Governor Josphat Nanok said county staff were on the ground to fix the mess. He toured the area to assess the damage. 

“This kind of flooding has not been experienced before. The intensity of water was very high, resulting in the blockage of water resources. Nine out of 12 boreholes that supply water to a population of about 70,000 people in Lodwar were destroyed. We are trying our best to fix them immediately to avoid water shortage,” the county chief said.

Despite the promise, residents say no help has been forthcoming. Jane Arot, 63 , of Kawalase, Lodwar town, lamented that the shortage has been a challenge for many years but the government has not prioritised its solution. She lost her cattle last month to flooding. Arot said the county has abandoned them and getting even drinking water is a problem.

“Every day with my children, we are forced to trek to the Kawalase seasonal river to dig shallow wells for some hours to draw dirty water for domestic use. We’re in need of water at the moment. We don’t have money to buy food and there is no way we can afford to buy water,” she said. 

On Thursday last week, Lodwar Water Services Company MD Benedict Ekeru sought to assure residents that all boreholes would be fixed on Sunday. Ekeru said they were collaborating with the county government and Unicef to repair the boreholes.

“We have ordered equipment needed for the repair of solar panels as most of the boreholes use solar energy to pump water. Most of the equipment is not available but we are trying our best to fix them as soon as possible,” he said.

Nothing has been done thus far. Most people still rely on groundwater sources for survival.

Inter-Religious Council Turkana branch chairman Yusuf Aremon urged the national and county governments to partner in repairing the boreholes to end suffering. He said the region risks experiencing disease outbreaks if no urgent action is taken.

“Water has been a challenge since it rained last month. Residents still buy water because the county government has not repaired boreholes that were destroyed by floods in the region,” he said.

In Nakwamekwi, villagers buy 20 litres of water at Sh20. Led by Turkana Red Vest Movement youth leader Joseph Egelan, they said no single water project has been implemented in their area since the inception of devolution. 

“The Turkana county government has failed in its service delivery. It’s well known the Nakwamekwi region has been sabotaged in water development projects. If you walk around, you will see stalled projects, including pipes, tanks and fence,” Egelan said.

He urged the national government to end the crisis, adding they can no longer tolerate false promises by the Nanok administration.

(Edited by F'Orieny)