Africa

Water Scarcity in Kenya: A Dire Crisis

By Rachel Brown

Water scarcity is not something new to the African region. Throughout the years many countries in Africa have had to bear the consequences of not having clean and accessible water at their disposal. It is well researched that 1 in 3 Africans face water scarcity and “400 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to basic drinking water.” Kenya is on the East Africa coast, yet the country is facing one of the worst droughts of its time. Despite it bordering the Indian Ocean, the Wajir Region and its people find themselves struggling to survive without access to clean water. 

There are roughly 40 million people living in Kenya, and almost half of them don’t have access to clean water. Due to this large population, in a relatively small country, the ratio of people to accessible water is deeply skewed. While there may be access to water, this water isn’t clean, and Kenyans don’t have the means to filter this water. Although, out of desperation, we see people drinking this dirty water and then getting diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, dehydration from diarrhea, etc. People shouldn’t have to risk their health and well-being just because they don’t have access to clean water, a fundamental right to life. 

Climate change, the heating of the planet at an unreasonable rate, is also exacerbating this issue. Kenya is facing a severe drought, “receiving less than 30% of its normal rainfall – the worst short rain season in decades.” Not only does this lack of rainfall affect the citizens’ access to water, but also damages their economy because their pastures and animals aren’t hydrated enough to do well. Without these pastures and livelihoods of agriculture, we can see people not being able to make a living and falling deeper into poverty. 

Zenab Jule, an expecting mother in Africa, is currently living below the poverty line as a direct result of the droughts. She is pregnant, along with having 2 other children and has only been feeding them maize because of the lack of crop due to the lack of water. She says, “both toddlers are suffering from diarrhea, one of the most frequent symptoms of malnourishment among children below five.” This water crisis is affecting more than just the people, crops, and animals in Kenya but also the children. A lot of the time children have to drop out of school to help their family or follow their family to other areas in search of water. Considering that the average length a person has to go to fetch clean water is approximately 9 miles, it makes sense for them to want to pack up their things and move for better living conditions. 

This is a complex issue with no clear solution. However, there are many companies that focus on accessibility to clean water and are trying to work on solutions to create a system where water can be accessible and clean for everyone. 

  1. Holtz, Leo, and Christina Golubski. “Addressing Africa’s Extreme Water Insecurity.” Brookings. Brookings, August 11, 2021. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2021/07/23/addressing-africas-extreme-water-insecurity/. 
  2.  Pietromarchi, Virginia. “’We Will All Die’: In Kenya, Prolonged Drought Takes Heavy Toll.” Climate Crisis News | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, November 18, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/17/we-will-all-die-in-kenya-prolonged-drought-takes-heavy-toll. 
  3.  “Kenya’s Water Crisis – Kenya’s Water in 2021.” Water.org. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://water.org/our-impact/where-we-work/kenya/. 

Somalia Water Wells

The water crisis is a severe issue in Somalia, with just 45% of Somalis having access to sufficient water sources. 75% of the population don’t have access to improved sanitation or hygiene practices, which can lead to diseases such as cholera among women and children. Below-average rainfall in 2016 paired with El Nino-induced weather extremes, which had a severe impact on the livelihoods, as well as the food and water systems, across the Horn of Africa. The water shortage led to a humanitarian crisis in these countries, including Somalia.

UMR WASH Project focuses on improving the availability of clean water and sanitation to 2,500 vulnerable households located in IDP camps and host communities in the Gedo Region, Somalia. This program will be achieved through the rehabilitation of existing water sources, providing water treatment systems, and the provision of adequate hygiene facilities, including latrines. Hygiene promotion sessions will also be carried out by trained hygiene promoters to push for positive behavioral change.
UMR is constructing water wells in remote areas of Somalia, where women and children are forced to walk for miles through unsafe areas each day in search of clean water.

Adopt a Village Project (AVP)

“Over one third of the population still lives under the international poverty line and social, economic and gender disparities remain.”  — World Food Programme

Life in Kenya – Wajir County

  • 48.5 Million population
  • 35.6% of the population live on less than US $1.90 per day
  • Inhabitants concentrated in four villages (Bulla Elmi, Bulla Abdiaziz 1, Bulla Abdiaziz 2, and Bulla Hareri) are ethnic Somalis
  • Over 70% of the population derive their livelihood chiefly from livestock and livestock production.
  • 2.9% rapid population growth – food insecure families live in rural areas and depend on daily agricutltual labour for income

UMR’s Intervention

To improve access to basic social, health, WASH, and educational services, as well as safe houses; expand economic opportunities, and enhance environmental management for communities in Wajir County.

UMR’s Stages of Rebuilding follows a 6-step process:

  1. Education: Rehabilitate and restructure local schools
  2. WASH: Build boreholes to make water more accessible
  3. Housing: Construct mud houses
  4. Primary Health Care: Build medical centers in schools
  5. Environment: Build eco-friendly solar systems and eco-san toilets
  6. Community Committee: Community engagement through committees

Adopt-a-Village Project (AVP) Approach

The Adopt-a-Village Project (AVP) implements a holistic approach toward the overall livelihood improvement in Wajir County through synchronous development efforts in health, water & sanitation, education, housing, energy and environmental management, and community participation.

AVP covers four villages in Wajir County:

  • Bulla Elmi
  • Bulla Abdiaziz 1
  • Bulla Abdiaziz 2
  • Bulla Hareri
  • Elmi Primary School (shared among the villages)

AVP is an effort to develop village-level capacity toward meeting the SDGs, as part of an integrated community-level development strategy to end extreme rural poverty. This strategy is in line with the recommendations of various U.N. sectoral monitoring commissions to eliminate inequalities (especially the urban-rural gaps) in service delivery, and to “leave no one behind”. As such, we aim to bring together the best parts of development thinking in terms of local knowledge and commitment to sustainability in order  to apply a new approach to poverty alleviation.

UMR’s AVP First Steps:

  • Contract Surgeries Between the 25th – 27th of February 2020, an ophthalmologist from UMR led an eye team that screened 300 patients. Out of the tested patients, 134 qualified for and received free cataract surgeries (77 female & 57 male). The remaining patients received the necessary medication to treat their eye conditions. Another 300 patients were treated as outpatient cases and provided with eye medication, reading glasses, protective sunglasses, and health education. The 103 who were unable to receive surgery due to the limited time frame and resources were provided with interim treatment like eye drops, ointment, and eyeglasses, and were placed at the top of the registration list for the next eye clinic.
  • Water Wells UMR  also built two shallow wells in two villages, Maygag and Star Wario. The shallow wells serve 300 households, ensure clean water, improve essential health, increase hygiene levels, and ultimately will develop alternative livelihood opportunities. The water wells will regenerate the arid lands of their environment, so they can produce alternative sources of food security and income that would result from an overall better health outcome.
  • Orphan Protection UMR distributes vouchers to orphans and their caretakers and will continue to do so quarterly. This sponsorship is a vital lifeline for the orphans, many of whom are in families where the assigned guardian earns very little. Our intention is to ease the financial burden for not just the child, but the entire family as well.
  • Education UMR will be distributing over 17,000 of children backpacks filled with school supplies and books.
  • HealthcareUMR delivered two 40ft. containers of assorted medical supplies valued at $2 million USD to Wajir County, Kenya. The medical shipment consisted of facial masks, gloves, pain relievers, diabetic and cardiovascular medications, wheelchairs, hospital beds, among other items.

Immediate improvements in holistic livelihood conditions will enable the community to regain self-reliance, improve their standard of living and continue to maintain such standard with locally-driven community efforts once the project is completed.

Cataract & Hearing Aid Mission

Treatment of preventable blindness, like cataract and low vision, and deafness is one of the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty, especially for vulnerable communities like refugees living in makeshift environments.

Cataract Missions – Life with Blindness

Cataract accounts for 30%-50% of blindness in most African and Asian countries. Every dollar spent towards eliminating blindness and correcting vision in developing countries returns a four-fold on investment in economic terms. This places eliminating avoidable blindness among the most effective interventions available. Cataract surgeries are some of the most impactful on a person’s quality of life and require no follow up visits to a doctor.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) cataract is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment worldwide, accounting for nearly 20 million cases with nearly 5 million new cases each year.

Life With Hearing Loss and Deafness

Loss in hearing may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and aging.

Loss is hearing is defined as the ability to not hear as well as someone with normal hearing: hearting threshold of 25 dB or better in both ears. Hearing loss can affect one or both ears, causing difficulty to hear conversational speech or loud sounds.

Hard of hearing is defined as hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. Individuals who are hard of hearing communicate through spoken language and the use of  hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices.

Deafness is profound hearing loss, which implies very little or no hearing in an individual. They often use sign language for communication.

  • 60% of hearing loss is attributable to preventable causes, in children under the age of 15
  • 1.1 billion individuals are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to high noise – high risk for ages between 12–35 years
  • Over one third of people over 65 years of age are affected by disabling hearing loss – greater prevalence in South Asia, Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa
  • The current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of the worldwide need

UMR Interventions

Since 2016, UMR has been sending medical missions to places like Kenya, Jordan, and Bangladesh to perform cataract surgeries on patients in need. UMR has helped to restore the gift of sight to curable blind cases by providing quality medical care services to some of the most underprivileged including the elderly, disabled, refugees and vulnerable people in the community, many of whom live without any support from their relatives and governments. Under this initiative, in coordination with partner NGOs and Ministries of Health, over 1,000 cataract surgeries have been successfully performed free of cost to date thanks to our generous donors. Our surgeries have been 100% successful with no recurring complications, and cost as little as $100 per eye.

Hearing Aid in Palestine/Jordan

UMR established a partnership with Community Rehabilitation Centre for the Disabled/ Gaza camp (CRCD) – UNRWA, which works to integrate persons with disabilities in their communities and to improve their living conditions. The center helped UMR by offering its local program team and through conducting the need assessment for the project. UMR also partnered with Phonak Jordan, which provided a generous discount on the hearing devices and performed all medical examinations, measurements, and modeling before the devices distribution. It offered 2 years of device maintenance and monitoring in Jordan.

UMR’s Hearing Aid project helps Palestinian refugees in Gaza/Jerash camp and Syrian refugees in random camps in Al-Mafraq who have no health benefits and social security number.

When thousands of people in a community suffer from health issues, it can be nearly impossible for a society to grow and become self-sustainable. At UMR, we believe that in order to improve the quality of life in a community, everyone must have access to primary healthcare. As we continue our mission to help beneficiaries, we will be providing free cataract surgeries and hearing aids to as many people as possible.

Pass the Plate

Ramadan 2020

Every year Muslims around the world observe the holy month of Ramadan by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Unfortunately for hundreds of thousands of families, they will not get the chance to spend this spiritual time in a warm home with nutritious food to break their fast.

The number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million globally last year – the highest number in the UN refugee agency’s almost 70 years of operations. – UN

Refugees and displaced people are the most vulnerable people on the planet, suffering daily without sufficient housing, access to medicine, doctors, food, or clean water. As the crisis worsens, more and more people are depending on humanitarian agencies like UMR to fill the gaps.

Each year during Ramadan, UMR delivers food packages filled with nutritious items such as beans, rice, flour, oil, canned goods, and more to reach people that have absolutely nothing. We have spoken with families begging for help, telling our field staff that without these resources, they will die.

Me and my children are fasting. What will we eat to break our fast? My children are begging me for food and water!

This Ramadan, these families desperately need your help. Please #PassThePlate to a child in need!

Where We Are Working

Lebanon Kenya
Jordan Somalia
Yemen Sudan
Palestine Pakistan
Bangladesh USA

What We Are Providing

Food Baskets

UMR delivers food packages containing items such as rice, flour, sugar, oil, beans, lentils, tomato paste, pasta, bread, and canned goods.

Water & Sanitation

In addition, we will be building water wells in Pakistan, Somalia and Kenya to ensure that some of the poorest communities are able to find clean drinking water, and prevent the spread of diseases.

Orphan Protection

Children are some of the most vulnerable among these already struggling communities. That is why UMR prioritizes the safety and well-being of children and orphans by providing them with healthcare, education, nutrition and a chance at a future.

Iftars

Each year UMR hosts iftar dinners throughout the month of Ramadan. Last year we were able to serve thousands of people in Yemen and Gaza with warm, nutritious meals.

Click Donate Now to See the different programs you can Donate to:

Breast Cancer Screenings

UMR partnered with the African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association (AWCAA) and has been participating in medical campaigns to spread awareness and provide medical care in Sudan.

Earlier last month, UMR sent a group of physicians to hospitals and medical clinics in Sudan to educate women about preventative care for breast cancer, treatments, and more. Additionally, during this workshop, the doctors offered screenings for anyone who wished to receive one.

Housing Project

UMR has successfully constructed 27 new shelters in Sudan!
A few months ago, a few areas in Sudan endured conflict that left many people without homes. UMR traveled to the affected towns to build shelters and rooms for families whose homes were destroyed.

Medical Shipments

UMR boasts a strong medical gifts-in-kind supply chain. We work with private medical providers to procure medical supplies ranging from disposables such as gloves, bandages, and prescription medications to equipment critical to the success of a healthcare institution such as x-ray and ultrasound machines. This is a critical tool for capacity building of hospitals as it frees up monetary resources to hire new doctors and reduce the cost burden on patients.

UMR has provided medical shipments containing life-saving medicine and supplies to Yemen, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Jordan and Lebanon, and continues to send containers to countries in need.

Cataract Missions: Vision 2020

UMR successfully conducted over 1,000 cataract surgeries. Help us reach 5,000 new patients by the end of 2020

Key Facts & Figures:

  • Cataract accounts for 30%-50% of blindness in most African and Asian countries.
  • Every dollar spent towards eliminating blindness and correcting vision in developing countries returns a four-fold on investment in economic terms. This places eliminating avoidable blindness among the most effective interventions available.
  • Cataract surgeries are some of the most impactful on a person’s quality of life and require no follow up visits to a doctor.

Overview:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) cataract is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment worldwide, accounting for nearly 20 million cases with nearly 5 million new cases each year. The majority of people with cataracts are found in the developing world due to a lack of access to adequate healthcare facilities or, more often, a lack of ability to afford this low-cost surgery. Most treated cases need as little as 15 minutes, and even though cataract operations have virtually no recovery time, the number of people with preventable blindness continues to grow.

UMR is putting extraordinary effort to reverse this alarming trend through its Vision 2020 campaign

Since 2016, UMR has been sending medical missions to places like Kenya, Jordan, and Bangladesh to perform cataract surgeries on patients in need. UMR has helped to restore the gift of sight to curable blind cases by providing quality medical care services to some of the most underprivileged including the elderly, disabled, refugees and vulnerable people in the community, many of whom live without any support from their relatives and governments. Under this initiative, in coordination with partner NGOs and Ministries of Health, over 1,000 cataract surgeries have been successfully performed free of cost to date thanks to our generous donors. Our surgeries have been 100% successful with no recurring complications, and cost as little as $100 per eye.

I want to thank all of you for donating to this campaign as I have been blind for 6 years. My right eye was damaged by a rock when I was digging a well and now my only eye that was working has been slowly losing sight from cataracts… Soloman (70 years old)

Project Objective:

To restore eyesight to 5,000 people in Jordan and Kenya with cataract by the end of 2020. In addition to cataract surgery, UMR will provide eye exams, glasses and other rehabilitation needed for refugees and others who cannot afford the cost of these medical care services and procedures.

Our Impact:

Treatment of preventable blindness, like cataract and low vision, is one of the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty, especially for vulnerable communities like refugees living in makeshift environments. They regain their independence and confidence to approach economic opportunities and education. UMR and partners have restored eyesight to people who thought they would never be able to see again. We need to continue this work. There are thousands of people out there in great need of hope, and a chance to see again.

Kenya Water Wells

The importance of clean and safe water in rural areas cannot be emphasized. Having access to clean water ensures that families avoid water-borne illnesses, can keep up with hygiene, and the overall public health of a community is strengthened.

UMR Kenya has been working for years bringing shallow wells and boreholes to areas in need.

In September 2019, UMR completed the construction of 4 water wells in Garissa County, Kenya. Prior to this construction, women and children had to walk for miles, oftentimes though unsafe areas, to reach water that was not even clean.

In Wajir County, Kenya is a water-deficient county with no perennial rivers. Only 7% of residents use improved sanitation. In February 2020, UMR completed the construction of 2 shallow water wells in two villages in Kenya. Now that construction is complete, approximately 300 families will benefit from the clean water brought from the wells. Of these households, 6 families have orphans and 13 families have persons living with disabilities.

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