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No more trekking and a chance to go to school

Kenya, August 29, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Muna Ahmed/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Zeinab Abdikadir waters her family's goats at a Mercy Corps watering point in Kenya's drought-stricken Wajir County. Photo: Muna Ahmed/Mercy Corps

I met Zeinab Abdikadir as she was watering her family’s goats with her father at a Mercy Corps water storage tank in Bilil Burbur. She caught my attention because, at just nine years old, she was completely focused on her work. At such a tender age she was watering 100 goats in careful shifts, a few at a time.

She told me how before Mercy Corps began supplying water close to her home, she and her father used to walk to Lagbogol — which is 50 kilometers from where she lives — so that they could find drinking water for their goats.

She said: “My family used to have 300 goats, but as the drought continued they became fewer and fewer day by day because of the long trekking distance to water. My father and I used to have to walk two days to reach Lagbogol and another two days to return with our goats, which are getting weaker as days pass because there is nothing to feed them on.

"I am so grateful that now I don’t have to trek anymore as water is brought closer to us by your people. Now I am able to go to school and learn because I don’t have to walk for days with our goats.”

Zeinab told me that she had wanted to go to school but that was not possible before since she was the eldest in her family and it was her responsibility to help her father look after their goats (the only asset they have), as well as attend to other household chores. Now that the water is closer, Zeinab has time to go to class.

I visited her school, where children study sitting on the ground under a tree. They have no books and instead of a chalkboard or notebooks they practice writing on the dry soil. Zeinab said that she was so happy to be studying — she wasn’t at all aware how difficult the learning conditions were. For her, what mattered was that she was in school like any other kid. She was just happy to be able to go to school and learn instead of walking miles with the family livestock. She appreciates so much the fact that Mercy Corps has eased her task.

It is obvious that with the prevalence of this drought and consequent dwindling of resources like water, without help from Mercy Corps children like Zeinab would not be able to stay in one place and go to school. By providing water we’re also giving children like her a chance to learn.