Untold suffering for thousands of Lamu villagers over acute water shortage

 Long queues as Lamu East villages face acute water shortage.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu I Nation Media Group

At least 3,000 residents of Siyu, Shanga-Ishakani and Shanga-Rubu in Lamu East have for the last two months been having sleepless nights as they search for water.

The three villages have since January been facing acute water shortage following the ongoing drought in the region.

The villagers have for decades depended on rainwater as well as water from boreholes and wells, most of which have since dried up while others have turned salty due to the perennial drought experienced in the region.

The residents said very few boreholes and wells have freshwater but the consumers are too many.

At Siyu village, there is only one borehole with freshwater serving over 2,000 locals living in the village, as the rest of the water sources have either dried up or turned salty.
Aisha Kassim said they are forced to rise early in the morning to go and fetch water at the borehole to avoid long queues usually experienced during the daytime.

“We usually go to the borehole at around 3am or very late at night to wait for the water to drain before filling our jerricans. We have to contend with the extreme cold and long distances to get the water,” said Ms Kassim.

Another resident Mr Abdallah Yusuf said they now have to queue for hours at the well just to get a gallon of freshwater to take home.

“All freshwater holding tanks, wells and boreholes have dried up. The only ones that are now available have salty water. Currently, we only have one borehole with freshwater but it’s frustrating getting water from it, because of the high number of people who are now dependent on it,” said Mr Yusuf.

At Shanga-Rubu and Shanga-Ishakani villages, residents are forced to hire motorbikes to ferry freshwater from Faza to their villages with a 20-litre jerrican going for as high as Sh50.

Few boreholes

Mwanaisha Bamkuu, a resident, said those who cannot afford to hire motorbikes to ferry water from far have always been using salty water from the available wells and boreholes for their domestic consumption.

The situation has caused them untold suffering as many of them, especially children, now suffer from frequent bouts of stomach and skin ailments.

Ms Bamkuu said many villagers have also been left with discoloured teeth after using salty water from the boreholes and wells.

“There is a serious water shortage here. That’s why we are using salty water because we have no alternatives.  Look around, almost each one of us has discoloured teeth. It’s because of the high chlorine content in the water. That discolouration doesn’t come off even after intense brushing,” said Mrs Bamkuu.

A similar water shortage is also being experienced in the Boni forest villages of Milimani, Basuba, Mararani, Mangai, Bar’goni and parts of Mokowe town where wells have equally dried up while others turned salty.

The affected villagers appealed to well-wishers and the county government of Lamu to consider supplying them with fresh water using water bowsers until the drought spell is over and their boreholes return to normal.

Contacted, Lamu Water and Sewerage Company (LAWASCO) Managing Director Kimani Wainaina admitted to the shortage, adding that the situation is majorly contributed by drought that has seen several sand dunes at the Lamu Island’s main reservoir in Shella dry up.

“The drought has reduced water production and supply all across Lamu. We expect things will resume once the drought season is over,” said Mr Wainaina.