Seniagya faces acute water shortage as children walk hours in search of commodity

It’s a hot Monday afternoon at Seniagya, a farming community in the Sekyere East District of the Ashanti Region.

Eleven year-old Solomon Marfo and his seven year old colleague, Michael Asante walks tiredly through the weary weather.

Michael spots what seems like a pink t-shirt with a loose neck. He hangs a bowl turned inside out on his head.

The eldest, Solomon, is seen with a cloth wrapped around him tied up at the back of his neck as he holds an ash bucket bigger than Michael’s.

Barefooted, the boys seem to know themselves. Perhaps it is the routine exercise for both boys always after school.

“I can carry it,” Michael answered while laughing when I asked if he could carry the bowl.

Residents of Seniagya have endured acute water challenges for the past five years.

It follows a break-down of supply system and all 17 stand pipes installed for the community over 20 years ago.

About 5,000 people now rely on two streams and boreholes as their sources of water supply for domestic and other uses.

‘Yaya’, is the name of one of the streams that the community relies on.

“It is clean. We drink from it and use for domestic chores,” Agya Mensah, a Blacksmith told me. ‘Clean’ as he explained cannot be trusted because it not treated.

When the stream dries up, residents, especially, women and children, some as young as seven, have to walk long distances in search of water.

But due to the drastic change in weather, the stream had dried up earlier than expected; the reason children have walked to the only close-to-clean source.

This is an hour’s walk from the town which means children get to school always late.

“We wake up early in the morning always to go fetch water. We walk close to one hour so we go to school late and our teachers cane us for that,” Solomon Marfo revealed.

Sometimes, due to fatigue, they struggle to get their eyes wide open throughout classes.

“We sleep in class because we are tired. Sometimes, you lose concentration because you will be thinking about distance to cover after school for water,” he said.

Solomon and the younger brother, Micheal, are not the only children who embark on this exercise daily in search of water.

After walking for an hour to the only close-to-clean water, it was evident that more children have had to endure a similar fate.

About twenty children were busily chatting among themselves whiles they wait their turn to fetch the water.

Each child took turns to lower a long rope tied with a bucket at the edge down the well, scoop the water into the bucket at the base of the deep well and pull it up before pouring it into their respective buckets and bowls.

It was obvious; these children are used to doing this, as I watch even the youngest ones fetch the water themselves without help.

Though they had smiles beaming on their faces, I realized from interactions with them that they are not excited by the struggle they have had to endure each day but the company of each other.

“It is difficult here.” This answer run through all from all the children I met at the well.

Halimatu Watrah, a 13 years old girl explains that, “after these trips down here, all the time, we feel pains in the neck, our legs and get headache. I often get sick.”

Now recovering from being sick, she has no option but to go to the well today for water.

In 1998, Seniagya benefited from The Small Town Water Supply System under the International Development Association of the World Bank project.

It was one of the first to be constructed in the Ashanti Region, facilitated by the Community Water and Sanitation Agency.

The system broke down in 2010 and left the entire community to fall on unhygienic sources for drinking water, with the attendant health risk.

“This is an emergency problem,” said Nana Danso Agyei II, Board Chairman of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency.

It is observed that the community has no portable water at all; even surface water is very hard to come by.

The agency – one of the thirteen agencies under the Ghana Water Company Limited – is worried the situation has persisted for five years.

“There are so many issues with water-borne diseases here,” he said.

The Board of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency has been engaging community leaders and other stakeholders on ways to address the challenge.

The team assessed the whole water system to ascertain the problem during its visit there.

To assist the community, “we want to see the community’s contribution then we will support and offer technical know-how to address this.”

The board chairman hints that, “If we don’t get portable water to these people, we are going to face a lot of problems; Health problems, social problems, and even political problems”.

Chief of Seniagya, Nana Opusuanini Owusu Ansah Saahene, was excited with the hope that portable water will flow soon.

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