Tanzania’s Dangerous Water

Boy digging for water

The air feels hot. The ground parched. No rain. A small boy, or more commonly a group of teenage girls or a mom, seeks out one of the shallow holes dug in a field. Has someone already gathered the water that seeps into the bottom? Maybe it’s time to try digging a new hole.

This is a typical scenario in rural African communities. This time-intensive process takes hours each day, the walk home especially difficult carrying a bucket of water – if they can even fill a bucket. All this for water that is unsafe to drink because of contaminates that cause illness, and even death over time.

You’ve likely heard similar stories. But, did you know another threat lurks around the villages of Tanzania that lie near the Serengeti?


Hyena Habitat near Dotuk Wita-1Because a large number of people access water from the same source, and because of the amount of time taken per person, long lines form during peak times of the day. Therefore, many women and children set out during very early or late hours to retrieve water. The rocky hills near Kilulu Village, Tanzania conceal hyena dens. During dark hours, hyena attacks become a real threat, especially during the dry season when water collectors wander further from their village seeking water.

This womDotuk Wita-14an from Kilulu experienced tragedy resulting from the danger of trekking to fetch water during dark hours. One day, about two years ago, a few of her nieces and her 3-year old daughter, Happy, headed out to a shallow well for water. Along the way, hyenas attacked and mauled one of the girls. Even worse, these predators carried little Happy away. Tragically, she was never recovered.

Another woman from Mahina Village recounts her story:

Hyena attack victimWe were waking very early in the morning. One day I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and took my bucket to go get fresh water and met a hyena. The hyena began to chase me.  I ran hard, but I fell and broke my leg. The hyena did not attack, but it is common for the hyena to chase.

This attack happened eleven months earlier, and she is still healing. The woman from Mahina smiles. She now has a clean water well in her village. Both Mahina and Kilulu recently received new water wells provided by GAiN! Now, women like these can feel safe performing the daily task of collecting water. Having water access within the village reduces the possibility of encountering hyenas on the prowl because the task is not so time consuming that they must set out during dark hours. And each woman brings fresh, clean water home to their families.

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

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