Most expectant mothers carry some doubt or anxiety — but Kiran is carrying the weight of the world.
With sadness in her eyes, she says, “This pregnancy is my third child. My first one, she was not alive.”
“When I gave birth to her she was already dead. I cried for a whole year because of that.”
Kiran can only guess why her first baby was stillborn: “I don’t know the reason, but carrying such heavy water on my back or not having sufficient food to eat when I was pregnant — that’s only the reasons I can think of.”
Kiran with her two-year-old son.
Now, nine months into her pregnancy, Kiran is racked with stress. Each day, with her two-year-old son in tow, she hauls heavy loads of dirty water over precarious mountain trails to cater for their vital needs.
The water is unsafe for drinking — but they have no alternative. Clean water is dangerously scarce in the Baitadi region of Far West Nepal, and poverty is widespread.
“My husband is also not here, so I collect water the whole day,” she explains. “Being nine-months pregnant, and carrying heavy water on my back, and being a mother — I have so many responsibilities and it makes me really very worried about me and my child’s future.
“Sometimes at night-time I go through lots of pain in my stomach because of the water that I carry on my back,” she explains. “At night, I worry about everything — there are so many times that I can’t sleep.”
Kiran survives on a recipe of dirty water, little food, and regular illness. This life of poverty dims her hopes for the future. She says, “I just hope for a good future, but there is no hope.”
Kiran’s son looks like his mum — and his eyes betray the same sadness. “If he cries for food, then I also cry with him because I have no idea what to do,” she says.
At the nearest well, competition for water is intense and supply is unpredictable.
Kiran says, “If there is no water in the well, then we have to walk for three to four hours to get water from a small river, and three to four hours to get back. I spend the whole day doing that.”
She adds, “The water is not clean and that makes children more sick. Sometimes my whole body swells and we have many fevers and colds. These sicknesses happen because of the water.”
Kiran at the well where she collects water.
In Baitadi, at least 9 in 10 children have frequent bouts of diarrhoea due to drinking contaminated water.
Nepali children are 100 times more likely to die from diarrhoea than Australian kids.
Kiran is painfully aware of the risks of drinking dirty water — but she has no alternative. The threat of death and disease is ever-present. Kiran says, “I get so worried when me or my child get sick with a skin problem or another problem.”
Like any mother, Kiran just wants her children to thrive and grow up healthy and strong. If she had clean water, and could access it from a tap in her village or home, her life and her children’s lives would change forever.
No more sickness. And no more walking long distances to carry heavy loads of dirty water.
Just fresh, clean water for her kids.
No family can thrive without clean water. That’s why Oxfam is on the ground in Nepal, working against time to provide clean water for women like Kiran and their families. But we need your help.
Please support our urgent efforts to give clean water to families in Far West Nepal.
Donate to help give clean water in Nepal
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Photos: Abbie Trayler-Smith/OxfamAUS