Worse for Water


This is a woman whose face I know very well. I would recognise her anywhere. I have only met her once, but I have looked at this picture more than a hundred times, and seen through her eyes, the faces of thousands of woman. This picture affects me so deeply, that although I have had it for months, I have struggled to post it.

She walks 10 kms, with a wheel barrow, to collect water for her whole family. She fills up her containers and pushes her wheel barrow back and forth in a relay, struggling in the heat, with just enough water to last her family for the day. You can see her feet are sore and her back is taking strain. She considers herself lucky, she has a wheel barrow.

It is not the fact that she has to walk so far, and push a heavy load just to have access to something we take for granted that breaks my heart, its the fact that the water is worse for wear. There are cows walking through it, their droppings clouding the surface. There is a slight smell of decaying plant matter and mosquito larvae thrive in the cattle footprints on the edge of the water. The most dangerous thing in these waters is NOT the crocodiles, or the hippos.

As a biologist, I know that the chances of people drinking this water and getting sick are pretty high. The water is not clean enough to drink. In a region where the HIV/Aids infection rate is one of the highest in the world, this water could kill.

Approximately 37% of Black households do not have clean water piped to their homes. This is an unacceptable statistic. This is not equality. Our government must fix this. Access to clean water should be one of the basic human rights. Water is as vital as air. ALL of the people in this region face the same struggle to get water every day. If they can pump water from the Tugela, why can’t they pump water from Jozini, Pongola and other dams? Why can’t the Government provide water pumps? A lot of poor people think that corruption doesn’t affect them, but this is how it affects them the most. Access to government resources is being stolen from them.

This Photo was taken at Muzi Pan, near Mkhuzi Game Reserve KwaZulu-Natal. It is a beautiful location, with amazing birdlife. The community has tried to start up a tourist friendly picnic site, with canoes. The problem is, there is no one visiting. The site is always empty. If you find yourself out in Mkhuzi, please take the time to visit and support the locals. It would be wonderful if this resource could become something to benefit the community, perhaps even grab the attention of the government, and maybe they could even get clean water.

I asked this lady if I could take her photo, as well as a few shots of her containers and wheel barrow, and chatted with her a bit. She told me some of the children in her house get sick, with diarrhea,  but she did not know it could be from the water. She did not expect anything, and so when I gave her R20, she was very excited. You see, that is not even enough for a McDonalds Meal, but, it is enough to buy food for her family for a day. Just one more example of how things we take for granted, could drastically improve someone else’s life.

Please note, I am busy researching the costs involved in getting a water pump installed, so that at least if people walk for miles, they are getting access to clean water. If anyone can help, please contact me!

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6 thoughts on “Worse for Water

  1. yes – that is what she said. It may not be as far as that – as I doubt she has actually measured it. It definitely feels like that far to her! The point is, most of her day consists of basically fetching water, water that is not safe! How is she supposed to improve her situation when she doesn’t even have the time to try and make a living?

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