Dying for a drink: Inside the nomadic Turkana tribe

BY: dailymail.com
A woman was recently killed when one of the pits collapsed on her and her body remains buried at the site
A woman was recently killed when one of the pits collapsed on her and her body remains buried at the site

In one of the driest places on earth, women of the Turkana desert tribe are in charge of finding water.

 From sunrise to sunset, tribeswomen trek for miles and dig for water with their bare hands as the worst drought in decades shows no sign of abating in desolate northwestern Kenya.

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It's supposed to be the rainy season but the once wide and flowing river beds are dried up and thousands of animals have died. All that remains are the sturdiest of camels, goats and donkeys.

The Turkana tribe, who live in this remote and inhospitable land, see it is a woman's job to provide water. Four years since the last substantial rainfall, that role has become deadly.


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MailOnline visited a struggling community - living roughly 100 miles from the tourist hotspot of Lake Turkana - and heard how a woman was recently killed when a 14-foot water hole she dug collapsed and trapped her.

Turkana culture does not permit a dead body to be moved because it's considered cursed so the woman was still buried at the bottom of the pit that was supposed to be her family's lifeline.

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Here women, including those that are pregnant, walk around 12 miles each day in an unimaginable quest to find water in one of the driest places on earth. If successful, they carry 20-litre cartons atop of their heads back to their children, husbands and animals. A family has an average of 10 children.

In the village of Labei, we encountered young women, adorned with beautiful colourful neck beads and their trademark mohawk-style haircut, carry out the exhausting work of lifting water up to the surface from a 12-foot hole they had dug with their hands and a small spade.

They estimated the newly formed waterhole, named Sasak Echoke, contained enough brown liquid to last them just a few days.

At the top of the hole, men and children poured buckets of the pungent water into makeshift troughs for the camels, goats and donkeys to drink from. These animals are the nomadic tribe's livelihood.

The tribe live in small dwellings called manyattas made from palm leaves, wood, and animal skins. Mothers and their children live in a separate hut to the husband, who sleeps in his own one which is suitable for conjugal visits

In their polygamous society, camels are used as dowry when a man wants to make a woman his wife. Men take as many wives as they can afford and girls are believed to be ready for marriage as soon as they hit puberty, despite Kenyan law stating both men and women must be 18 before they can wed.

From sunrise to sunset, tribeswomen trek for miles and dig for water with their bare hands as the worst drought in decades shows no sign of abating in desolate northwestern Kenya.

Women in Labei described the extreme difficulties they are facing as they try to find water for their children. They are forced to leave them alone from sunrise to sunset as they go out searching. The children appeared malnourished and lethargic

It's supposed to be the rainy season but the once wide and flowing river beds are dried up and thousands of animals have died. All that remains are the sturdiest of camels, goats and donkeys.

The Turkana tribe, who live in this remote and inhospitable land, see it is a woman's job to provide water. Four years since the last substantial rainfall, that role has become deadly.

MailOnline visited a struggling community - living roughly 100 miles from the tourist hotspot of Lake Turkana - and heard how a woman was recently killed when a 14-foot water hole she dug collapsed and trapped her.

Women arrive with their containers to gather clean water from the new borehole. The solar-powered technology provides water from 110 metres underground

Turkana culture does not permit a dead body to be moved because it's considered cursed so the woman was still buried at the bottom of the pit that was supposed to be her family's lifeline.

Here women, including those that are pregnant, walk around 12 miles each day in an unimaginable quest to find water in one of the driest places on earth. If successful, they carry 20-litre cartons atop of their heads back to their children, husbands and animals. A family has an average of 10 children.

Camels formed an orderly line to drink from their new trough. Water is pumped from the solar-powered borehole into troughs for animals - big and small - after just two hours of bright sunshine. 'The effect of this project is quite clear, it’s absolutely amazing,' said SPANA Chief Executive Geoffrey Dennis

In the village of Labei, we encountered young women, adorned with beautiful colourful neck beads and their trademark mohawk-style haircut, carry out the exhausting work of lifting water up to the surface from a 12-foot hole they had dug with their hands and a small spade.

They estimated the newly formed waterhole, named Sasak Echoke, contained enough brown liquid to last them just a few days.

Atir Acheme is part of a water committee formed by the tribe to manage the running of the borehole. They have agreed to a yearly fee of 500 Kenyan shillings (£3.80) per household to maintain it

At the top of the hole, men and children poured buckets of the pungent water into makeshift troughs for the camels, goats and donkeys to drink from. These animals are the nomadic tribe's livelihood.

A young girl carries a baby and a tub of water away from the borehole as goats and camels take their turn to drink

In their polygamous society, camels are used as dowry when a man wants to make a woman his wife. Men take as many wives as they can afford and girls are believed to be ready for marriage as soon as they hit puberty, despite Kenyan law stating both men and women must be 18 before they can wed.

Overjoyed tribeswomen greeted us with dancing and singing as we arrived at a new solar-powered borehole paid for by British charity the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) and implemented by their local partner Practical Action