Village where people never smile



JF-Expert Member
Jan 27, 2007


JF-Expert Member
Joined Jan 27, 2007
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Village where people never smile

By Kiundu Waweru

The young men and women of Karinde hardly laugh. When you strike a conversation with them, they cover their mouths with their hands or simply look away.

Most of the residents in Dagoretti have brown teeth but that is not all. Most of them, including the youth, complain of joint pains and fatigue even though they do not do hard labour. The old walk slowly as if burdened by work.

"These people are slowly wasting away," says Mr Francis Wainaina, a community worker with Millennium Community Development Initiative.

In 1986, there was a Government initiative to sink boreholes in the area. After the project was complete, an engineer took samples for testing and returned with the verdict that the water was unfit for consumption as it contained high amount of fluoride. The then water project chairman Pius Mbatia took a sample to Deflorisation Filters Centre, Nakuru, and returned with pictures of deformed people.

Judy Mukuria and Evelyn Wanjiru. You meet a young man who admires you and engages you in a conversation. But the moment you laugh, he looks for an escape route.

Photos: Kiundu Waweru/Standard

"He was told that that was how we would look if we continued using this water," says Mr Geoffrey Mubinu, the Karinde Water Project chairman.

"That was in the early 1990s when the main source of water was Gitwe Kia Mbagathi, about a kilometre away."

High fluoride

Wainaina also took a sample of the water to Kenya Water Institute for analysis.

Tests showed the water contained high levels of fluoride – about 3.85mg/L – which is higher than the recommended optimum level.

But trips to the river were tiring and the villagers did not want to hear about going back there, says Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson Jacinta Kago.

Residents continued using the borehole water. With time every home had piped water. The bill was minimal, affordable. Residents paid only for maintenance.

But the opportunity cost was heavy. All the children born after the boreholes were dug had brown teeth.

Today, the people wish they had listened to warnings. During a free medical camp in December last year the number of people with arthritis amazed doctors.

Mr Peter Muigai Njau, 24, who has arthritis, carries painkillers wherever he goes.

"I wake up numb in the morning. To do anything, I must first exercise my muscles. I cannot work for long periods."

Safe water

Muigai's story is similar to that of many others in this village. Men in their 50s and 60s use walking sticks.

"Karinde might be wiped out as children are born with this curse deep in their bones," says Ms Pauline Wangari.

Ms Judy Mukuria, slim and pretty women in her early 20s, has lost six teeth. But that is not all. "You meet a young man who admires you and engages you in a conversation. But the moment you respond, or laugh, his facial expression changes and he looks for an escape route," says the 24-year-old.

Too much fluoride causes discolouration of teeth, known as dental fluorosis and brittleness. "When taken in large quantities the enamel is totally broken down," says Dr Gladwell Gathecha, a dentist who did the analysis.

Prof Henry Thairu, chairman of Radiation Protection Board, says high levels of fluoride affect bones and teeth.

"Continued consumption of water containing high quantity of fluoride affects people's health and more so children whose bones are still developing," says Thairu

Ironically, two rivers, Mbagathi and Gitiba, surround the area but the residents say it is expensive to tap water from them.

"With funds, we can sink another borehole in a safe area. The Catholic church, about a kilometre away, has a borehole with safe water," says Mubinu

So until a permanent solution is found, the young men and women of Karinde will not be laughing

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