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Walking to Water

Summer - Kenya - 2011 (Photo: Jennifer James)

I remember sitting in a breezy Luo hut in Kenya last summer while listening to a young expectant mother who, even though pregnant, had to walk five miles to get fresh water every day. At the very moment she told us how far fresh water was from her family’s compound I began to calculate how far away five miles would be from my home and how terribly tiring it would be to walk the five miles back with heavy water in tow. 

Every day millions of people, especially women, girls, and young boys, must fetch water for themselves and their families. According to Charity Water, women and children spend 40 billion hours a year simply walking to get water. That is a far cry from the luxury we have of walking into an adjacent room in our home and turning on the tap.

Today that moment in Kenya came to mind and I thought about the young mother several times. I wondered if a well is now nearby where she doesn’t have to walk so far to get water. I wondered if she was pregnant again and still walking ten miles every day.

Organizations like the aforementioned Charity Water, Water.org, and Water for People, help bring fresh drinking water to people in need. Please consider giving a donation to sponsor a water project.

Given the magnitude of millions of people walking to get water every day in Africa I put together this slideshow of photos of people getting water taken by the United Nations dating from the 1970s through today.


  • A Boy Carries Water Home 1 of 8
    A Boy Carries Water Home
    Sudanese Red Crescent volunteers hand out chlorine tablets supplied by UNICEF at water gathering points along the river Nile. 43,000 tablets treating 200,000 gallons of water are distributed daily. Young boy carries water home for his family in a plastic container. 07 December 2006 (UN Photo/Tim McKulka)
  • Sudanese Ambororo Nomads Assited by UN Mission and Agencies 2 of 8
    Sudanese Ambororo Nomads Assited by UN Mission and Agencies
    Children of the Ambororo nomadic tribe in south Darfur are carrying water in plastic containers for their families, while they await transport and resettlement coordinated by the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to the Blue Nile State. The International Organization for Migration is arranging transport for vulnerable members of the group and the World Food Programme is distributing medicines and food. 26 December 2006 (UN Photo/Tim McKulka)
  • Water is Vital for Life 3 of 8
    Water is Vital for Life
    Women walking to a community well to bring drinking water near Garva in the northern part of Cameroon. 01 January 1977 (UN Photo/A Rozberg)
  • Water is Vital for Life 4 of 8
    Water is Vital for Life
    Smiling village women of Po returning home from a community well with containers full of water. 01 January 1976 (UN Photo/Ray Witlin)
  • Western Sahara 5 of 8
    Western Sahara
    Refugees collect water at a well in the Dakhla Refugee Camp. 23 June 2003 (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)
  • Namibia: Two Years after Independence 6 of 8
    Namibia: Two Years after Independence
    UN agencies and volunteers are lending their assistance and their expertise as the Namibians set about the formidable task of nation-building. 01 April 1992 (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)
  • Darfuris Receive Efficient Water Rollers 7 of 8
    Darfuris Receive Efficient Water Rollers
    31 January 2011. El Fasher: A woman pushes the Hippo Water Rollers in El Fasher (North Darfur).A large number of the Darfurian population has a limited access to water resources and have to carry heavy buckets or jerry cans many times a day because for it is small capacity for long distance. Hippo Water Roller is a device for carrying water more easily and efficiently than traditional methods. The hippo roller, with its large drum capacity (usually 75 liters), frees women and children from having to spend a large portion of every day dedicated to collecting water for their households.The Hippo Water Roller project started in South Africa and thousands of them have been distributed worldwide over the past 16 years, benefiting over 225,000 people. It have been used by Word Food Program (WFP), Operation Hunger, Operation Mobilization International as well as many other NGO's. UNAMID (African Union and United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur), in contribution of the development and early recovery, is distributing 30,000 rollers to returnee villages across Darfur with limited access to water resources. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID
  • Water Distribution in Tora Northern Darfur 8 of 8
    Water Distribution in Tora Northern Darfur
    Water is being distributed in Tora by an African Union-United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) contingent from Rwanda. The closest water source is 1.5 hours away and donkeys are regularly used to transport water to the village. A woman is on her way to the water distribution site in Tora, Northern Darfur. 26 July 2009 (UN Photo/Olivier Chassot)

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