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PHOTOS: Olympians Find Fetching Water In Rural Uganda Far From Child’s Play

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Wednesday, August 17th, 2016
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In Uganda’s mountainous Kigezi region, safe water is scarce, forcing many children – including sisters Doreen and Jouvllet – to spend hours each day carting supplies up steep terrain. British rowers Richard and Peter Chambers, Olympic silver medallists at London 2012, joined the girls on their daily trek and were overwhelmed by the magnitude of their daily routine

 

 

Barely half of Uganda’s population has access to sufficient safe water. Even those who do have to walk long distances to collect it. In the Kigezi region of south-west Uganda, people may have to walk up to 6km to find water. The region experiences unpredictable rainfall, which can leave communities unable to obtain water during the dry season.
Barely half of Uganda’s population has access to sufficient safe water. Even those who do have to walk long distances to collect it. In the Kigezi region of south-west Uganda, people may have to walk up to 6km to find water. The region experiences unpredictable rainfall, which can leave communities unable to obtain water during the dry season.

 

 

 Doreen, 13, and Jouvllet, 12, live in a remote hilltop village in Kabale district. Before and after school, the sisters collect water for the family, a trip that takes about two hours. They first started carrying water in five-litre containers at the age of five. Now they each carry 20 litres of water on a 2km climb twice daily.

Doreen, 13, and Jouvllet, 12, live in a remote hilltop village in Kabale district. Before and after school, the sisters collect water for the family, a trip that takes about two hours. They first started carrying water in five-litre containers at the age of five. Now they each carry 20 litres of water on a 2km climb twice daily.
Rowing silver medallists at the 2012 Olympics, brothers Peter (right) and Richard Chambers joined the girls on their journey to fetch water. Each container weighs 20kg when full. To help stabilise the load for the journey, they are filled to the brim, then sealed with a potato – an effective stopper that is easily replaced if lost.
Rowing silver medallists at the 2012 Olympics, brothers Peter (right) and Richard Chambers joined the girls on their journey to fetch water. Each container weighs 20kg when full. To help stabilise the load for the journey, they are filled to the brim, then sealed with a potato – an effective stopper that is easily replaced if lost.

 

Doreen lifts the full jerry can. Getting the 20kg load into position can be a struggle, but once she has it balanced on her head, her neck is strong enough to carry the weight efficiently on the long walk home.
Doreen lifts the full jerry can. Getting the 20kg load into position can be a struggle, but once she has it balanced on her head, her neck is strong enough to carry the weight efficiently on the long walk home.

 

Difficult to navigate at the best of times, the path can quickly become treacherous in bad weather or when mists roll in. Much of the route is isolated, leaving the girls at risk of attack.
Difficult to navigate at the best of times, the path can quickly become treacherous in bad weather or when mists roll in. Much of the route is isolated, leaving the girls at risk of attack.

 

 Despite their fitness, the brothers were overwhelmed by the enormity of the girls’ daily routine.

Despite their fitness, the brothers were overwhelmed by the enormity of the girls’ daily routine.

 

After joining them on the trip to the lake and back, the brothers said that if they had to shadow Doreen and Jouvllet twice daily for a week, they would be on their knees by the third or fourth day.
After joining them on the trip to the lake and back, the brothers said that if they had to shadow Doreen and Jouvllet twice daily for a week, they would be on their knees by the third or fourth day.

 

 ‘For us, as well-trained athletes, to take on that challenge physically was pretty tough,’ said Peter. ‘We work for a short amount of time in our international races but, for the girls, it’s a four-hour slog every day. It’s pretty hard work. For them it’s a physical challenge because they are so young, but it’s also a mental challenge of doing it and repeating it, of doing it all the time’.

‘For us, as well-trained athletes, to take on that challenge physically was pretty tough,’ said Peter. ‘We work for a short amount of time in our international races but, for the girls, it’s a four-hour slog every day. It’s pretty hard work. For them it’s a physical challenge because they are so young, but it’s also a mental challenge of doing it and repeating it, of doing it all the time’.

 

Work being done by the Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation programme, a Tearfund partner, could make life easier for Doreen and Jouvllet. Established to provide clean drinking water within a reachable distance for local communities, the organisation provides materials and local craftsmen to help build rainwater harvesting tanks. The programme also works to protect natural water springs that feed gravity-flow schemes connected to communal tap stands, used instead of boreholes in Kigezi because the terrain makes drilling difficult.
Work being done by the Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation programme, a Tearfund partner, could make life easier for Doreen and Jouvllet. Established to provide clean drinking water within a reachable distance for local communities, the organisation provides materials and local craftsmen to help build rainwater harvesting tanks. The programme also works to protect natural water springs that feed gravity-flow schemes connected to communal tap stands, used instead of boreholes in Kigezi because the terrain makes drilling difficult.

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