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News|College of Engineering and Applied Science

EWB-WYO Brings Clean Water to Kenyan Village


February 7, 2011 — Water brings life, from the growing of crops to feed villages, to bathing at the end of a long day, to transporting people and goods by boat from point to point. People of the village of Mbita (BE-tah), Kenya, are slowly dying from a lack of clean water. In 2008, a pair of Laramie-based nurses traveled to this part of Kenya on behalf of a charity project, and discovered that 80 percent of diseases afflicting the Mbita people could be cured simply with clean water.

Mbita is located on the shores of Lake Victoria in the far South Western corner of Kenya and has an urban population of approximately 6,000. There is dire need for a life-sustaining clean water system. The community severely lacks water for most of the year and is often dependent on rainwater, local streams, and Lake Victoria. Water collection is daunting and time consuming for the villagers, taking up to four hours per day, and is a chore assigned mainly to women and children. There is no faucet to turn or toilet to flush, only miles of land to cross and water shared with animals to haul back home. The back-breaking work and long hours of water collection leave little time to consider health, education, or income generating activities. Water gathered from the lake is polluted, since there are no wastewater treatment facilities in the area. The unsanitary conditions have led to water-transmitted diseases such as amoebiasis, schistosomiasis, bacillary dysentery and cholera.

“Kenya is seeing a herd of 50 cattle being under the control of an 8-year old boy who throws rocks at them and beats them with a stick. He in turn treats other children the same way,” says Christina Hachmann, civil engineering major and EWB-WYO chapter treasurer. “ It's seeing a 10-year-old boy running a donkey cart to pull five-gallon buckets of water out of the lake to take to the school, and then to plug the jugs with the water hyacinth which is where all of the terrible diseases thrive. It's seeing a 5-year-old girl bathe her 6-month-old baby brother among the goats and cattle.”

UW students, along with their faculty advisors reviewed and adopted this project in an effort to improve the quality of life in Mbita. Project goals include establishing strong community relationships, surveying community concerns, and performing technical analyses of the water and terrain. To ensure sustainability and success of the project, EWB-WYO works closely with the community and continues to build upon relationships for years following the project.

An EWB project offers UW students an unparalleled opportunity for technical development and personal growth. It also provides essential aid to those in most desperate need of help.

 

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