Residents in Western Province in Nyabihu District are grappling with water scarcity despite government efforts to address the situation.
Lack of access to safe water in several parts of the district has seen students missing school in order to search for water.
Many residents have been forced to use dirty water for domestic purposes, exposing them to waterborne diseases.
The Integrated Household Living Survey (EICV3) shows that Nyabihu’s safe water coverage stands at 25.7 per cent, with 20.4 per cent of households drinking unhygienic water.
Also, a World Health Organization survey shows that the percentage of households using unhygienic water sources in Nyabihu District is above the national average of 74.2 per cent.
A tour of Mukamira, Muringa and Rugera sectors shows the lack of clean water increases the risk of waterborne diseases.
It is common to see residents getting water from unhygienic water sources, which they share with animals. Piped water, protected springs, public standpipes, boreholes and protected wells are only in Nyabihu Town.
Karinganire Pascal who is in charge of hygiene and sanitation in Rurembo Sector said the water from dams and ponds being used for domestic is discoloured due to its chemical composition.
He said that sometimes the water changes the taste of food. He added that the water can be made safer by using water purifiers, which are not easily accessible and affordable for most residents.
“I have heard about these purifiers, but they can only be found in the capital city and I am not able to access them or afford them on a regular basis.
I have no choice but to use the water without purifying it,” said Aline Mukeshimana a Mukamira resident.
District officials are being urged to provide residents with purifiers or clean piped water.
Mr Karinganire said purifying water is expensive and the local government cannot sustain such an initiative. He said the district has a general water problem, beyond the safety of the available water.
He said that in some parts of the District people take around five hours to get safe water for cooking and drinking.
“Last week, my children were diagnosed with diarrhoea from drinking dirty water. So now I have to spend at least Rwf3,000 a day on clean drinking water,” said Ms Mukeshimana.
Pascal Simpenzwe, the Vice Mayor in charge of social affairs in Nyabihu District, said the water shortage isn’t only in Nyabihu but even in the capital city.
“People should know that this is an issue that the government is working on. In Nyabihu District, we know that some water pipes no longer work and we plan to repair them in the next budget,” said Mr Simpenzwe.
“We plan to ensure that water reaches every corner of Nyabihu. The mandate of water expansion is already with the government and we are following it up,’’ he added.
Mr Simpenzwe assured residents that they’re looking into the water shortage and will try to avail water purifiers at a cheaper price before repairing functional water pipes to provide safe and clean water.