Monica walks more than 4 km to fetch dirty water that she uses to make tea. She pours it from her jug into a cooking pot and builds up the wood fire. She boils the water for tea and adds fresh goat milk, then pours it into cups for her children to drink.
Does she worry about the water in her tea making her family sick?
“Of course,” she says. At least one of her children is sick every month. “But it’s the only water we have.”
A typical water sample from an open water source like Monica’s in Kenya, reveals a scary array of ingredients – a nasty stew of pathogens — bacteria, viruses, parasites, and protozoa.
Bacteria in dirty water include:
- Salmonella typhi bacteria causes typhoid. Monica is well familiar with the symptoms of this serious disease: fever, abdominal pain, constipation, and headaches.
- Aeromonas Hydrophila bacteria causes severe dysentery in children and people with weak immune systems.
- Vibrio cholera bacteria causes cholera. A cholera outbreak since December 2014 has affected 30 out of 47 counties in Kenya.
- Intestinal parasites that cause stomach aches and diarrhea include Giardia and Entamoeba histolytica, the source of amoebic dysentery.
Additionally, Hepatitis A virus causes liver disease and is primarily spread through water or food contaminated by human feces.
Water and sanitation problems persist in rural Kenya, where as recently as 2015 only 57 percent of people had access to water from an improved source, and only 30 percent had improved sanitation.
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