Since I last posted, I’ve been over to Western Kenya to visit our partner Bridge Water Project. It’s been great to visit old friends, and to get involved in the day to day activities of a local development organisation. I’ll try and post a longer piece on some of the things we got up to whilst I was there another day, because for now I want to write about where I am now, just outside Lodwar Town in Northern Kenya.
Lodwar is the last large outpost before the northern border of Kenya, Lake Turkhana and the lands of Sudan. It is dry here. The Turkhana People who live here are traditionally pastoralists, herders of cattle, goats and camels. There has been a drought here for the last 10 years, so most of the cattle have died. People rely heavily on the substantial aid presence here for food and relief, as without water little grows in the sandy ground. All the large well known aid organisations are here – it feels more like a disaster response than a developmental scene. People thinking of Kenya as the lush green of Western Province, the sandy beaches and palms of the Coast, or the skyscrapers of Nairobi will not recognise this place.
I am here co-ordinating two projects we have funded. I travelled up with one of our partners, Staff of Hope, along with their drilling rig and team of five. The Water Project is funding their work here, at an orphanage called The House of Hope and a nearby community called Kakiriing. The journey took us from Kitale in Rift Valley Province through Pokot and eventually to Lodwar. This is a journey of some 300km. On good roads, with a strong vehicle it could take 3 hours. The journey lasted three and a half days, and included five breakdowns and a near miss with bandit attack.
Problems with the hydraulic breaks, the radiator and the fuel pump meant hours by the side of the road, in dusty villages and in sweltering heat. On the third day we passed a convoy broken down on the road, and stopped briefly to say hi. Later on we heard they had been attacked shortly afterwards by bandits and had had to flee into the bush. One of their group was shot and is now in hospital.
Such challenges on the road have resulted in Lodwar being isolated from the rest of Kenya. It feels like a forgotten land. The people here are represented by MPs, and are Kenyan citizens. Yet when you leave this place the people say “Greet Kenya for me” as you go. This is a place in dire need of support and with the lowest health and poverty indicators in all of Kenya.
Over the coming days Staff of Hope are drilling for water. I hope to bring you good news of the impact we are having here – of people served and some hope restored.
For now, I hope these images will paint a picture of one of the places The Water Project is currently in action.