The Chronicle Gambia

Inside a Rural Village Where Drinking Water is Lacking, Handwashing is Almost Impossible

The strong advice from the health community is the use of clean and running water to wash one’s hand regularly in order to prevent contracting the Coronavirus. But inside a Gambian village, residents have been hassling to access portable water to quench their thirst and other needs for decades by walking kilometers away from their community every day.

The eruption of COVID-19 is a further exposure to more damage to the health of people living in Kerr Madi, a community in the Central River Region-North (CRR), 191 kilometers away from the capital Banjul.

“It’s unfortunate that my village is currently without a well or a borehole. The only well we have here has broken down and this situation is really detailing our fight against COVID-19 really hard,” Eliman Bah, Alakalo [head] of Kerr Madi tells The Chronicle.

Eliman Bah, Al
Eliman Bah, Alakalo of Kerr Madi washing his hands

According to the WHO, to prevent the virus that has already killed more than 100, 000 people, with close to 2 million infected persons globally, a regular hand washing is key in the given guidelines which also include social distancing.

The Gambia has already registered one death due to the outbreak including nine confirmed cases since March.

Eliman says the villagers would always trek kilometers before getting water, worrying that the situation is unbearable as they are not able to comply with the guidelines.

“It will be very difficult for us to adhere to the advice given by the authorities that is to frequently wash our hands when we don’t even have access to drinking water” Eliman Bah stated.

Kerr Madi is one of the oldest communities in Lower Saloum District. The head of the community says the village has always been rallying behind the government of the day, justifying the reason they should be considered for water supply.

     Aminata Bah (white shirt) with friends drawing water

“Water has always remained a problem for this village since the first republic to date. What makes it more worrying for us now is the Coronavirus pandemic that requires continuous hand washing using clean and running water. How can we fight the virus without water?”

As a traditional responsibility of women to fetch water for the household needs in the country, women are suffering even more these days as the need for water increases.

Aminata Bah is a native of Kerr Madi. “Every day we [women] carry our buckets and gallons either on our heads or place them on the donkey carts to bring water from our neighboring communities. The experience is very painful.

Aminata is 16 years old and has called on the government to their suffering they continue to encounter for decades.

“I want to call on the government to consider building us a new well or renovate the dilapidated one so that we can use it for now.

“Obviously, it is very difficult on us as women. If we want to carry on fetching water from other villages coupled with other domestic works especially in this coronavirus, that movement itself is not safe.”

The youth leader of the village, Yerro Jallow, said they have a well in the village where they drew water from but it has since been destroyed. He said the youth and women bear the pressure every day in efforts to get water for their use.

Yerro Jallow

“The situation is very pathetic. I want to call on the government to address this situation sooner rather than later,” he tells The Chronicle.

“Without the youths and women of this village, there will be no drinking water much more to talk about hand washing to adhere to the Ministry of Health and WHO guidelines to combat the deadly Coronavirus.”

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