I turn on the tap and mud comes out. I'm following Dominic Mosa, a slender, soft-spoken man with a slight frame and off-white lab coat. We're in the laundry of the health clinic he runs, watching brown water flow from two taps into a stone basin.
"This is your water?" I ask. "You've got to be kidding. You must be."
Mosa wasn't kidding. All the water for the Mogotio Health Center, found about three hours north of Nairobi, is piped up from a muddy river about half a mile away.
A small stone house by the bank holds a pump that takes the muddy water up into the hospital's two gigantic 7,500-gallon holding tanks, where it then slides down into taps to be used for cleaning, cooking, and drinking.
It's all they have.
Mosa proudly walks me through his spacious yet modest clinic that boasts a small men's ward, a women's ward, maternity care ward, HIV counseling center, a laboratory and dental services.
Stopping in the overflow room with two beds, he draws my attention to the beige bed sheets.
"They used to be white," he says.
As many of you know, I was in Kenya for a week, looking for the right project to fund for my 32nd birthday, and the one-year anniversary of charity: water. I'll admit, I'd thumbed through the project proposals for these clinics with a bit of disbelief.
Several health clinics in the Rongai district of Kenya didn't have any access to clean water, the reports stated. In some, patients were forced to bring 5 gallon Jerry cans of water with them before they could receive treatment. The small clinics serve populations in 20+ mile radiuses of 30,000 - 50,000. The numbers were hard to comprehend, as was the thought of going to a hospital and not having even the most basic ingredient for good health. Safe water.
10 minutes with Mr. Mosa brought the proposals to life.
It's a terrible situation. Mogotio's 21 staff and patients rely on a stream of mud from the now raging river Molo - as long as the pump by the river is working. When it breaks, which happened 4 or 5 times in the past few years, Mosa is forced to pay people to fetch dirty jerry cans full of the same river water.
But the hospital taps aren't the only ones dispensing mud.
Across and down the road, we rolled into Athinai, a town of about 4000. Within about five minutes we were surrounded by 50 children, then 100. Many of them AIDS orphans; many of them belonged to parents who worked in the rope plantation and factory next door for about $1 a day. Athinai is a grubby slum made of ramshackle buildings all sloppily painted in white -- perhaps an attempt to disguise its poverty.
I'm traveling with Lyle Owerko, a photographer who has spent a lot of time in Northern Kenya with the Samburu Warriors. He's speechless. "You couldn't make this stuff up." he says.
Athanai's water comes from an open tap in the shadow of three huge tanks. The water is pumped by the plantation owners from the same river upstream from the hospital's access point.
And here's the thing. The water makes everybody sick. The adults get sick, the kids get sick. Typhoid, worms that attack the intestines, and dysentery are commonplace. And cholera- a waterborne disease - remains a severe threat in Kenya.
But the good thing is, Mosa's clinic is nearby and they can get quality treatment, or at least they could if Mosa and his staff had safe water.
Even though the clinic does its best to provide good care and medications to its patients, they are undermined by the disease-ridden water. As we interviewed him, Mosa stated the obvious. A circle of disease centers around the water here. In his examination room, he pointed out 3 waterborne diseases on a list of Mogotio's top ten. He sees many of the same patients, and it frustrates him.
The September Well
Through our partner Living Water International, we drilled a well at Mogotio Health Center on September 7th, the day of Scott's Harrison's birthday and the one year anniversary of charity: water. More than $150,000 was raised and 700+ people joined in the effort. We plan to do it all again next year.