The sun’s retreating form cast a soft orange hue on the horizon, ushering the evening in the small village that was Dzumelu.
One could hear the voices of little children as they danced outside. They were singing as they danced, forming a big circle with a little boy in the middle. From the excitement in their voices, you could tell they were having a swell time.
*”mimi ni mgonjwa mimi ni mgonjwa nataka kuona daktari”
They chanted and all fell to the ground as though they were truly sick.
It was a popular game in Dzumelu village that required endurance because after they all fell, the boy in the middle would lay his palm on the forehead of each child as though he was a doctor checking their temperature. He would then tickle them afterward.
The first child to laugh automatically lost the game and would have to leave and watch from the sidelines. The game would then continue in the same process.
About twenty-three minutes into the game, a loud wail suddenly came from the hut close to where the children were playing.
It was the hut where Nia, one of the children that were playing, lived.
Nia’s mother ran out of the hut. her hands flailing in the air as she wailed. From the words she managed to form mid-sobs as the villagers came out and gathered around her, it appeared her son, Nia’s little brother, had died. This was the seventh death in one week.
Morning came and as the villagers were preparing to go about their fishing and farming activities for the day, the town crier announced that the village chief scheduled an emergency meeting later in the day to discuss the strange illness and death that was plaguing the village.
The villagers murmured about the strange occurrences as they dispersed. A young girl, Jabari, was with her mother as they made their way through the path that led to the Tsule stream. She was about eight years old and had a basket on her head while her mother carried a huge fishing net.
As they walked along the path to the stream, Jabari could see faces peeking out from the bushes. Apparently, they were defecating. The pungent smell of human waste filled Jabari’s nose. It was so bad that she had to pinch her nose with her thumb and forefinger.
She hurried behind her mother to escape the horror that was that place. On getting to the stream, mother and daughter were not surprised to see that people had already started their fishing activities.
Jabari placed her basket at the bank of the stream and moved to help her mother undo the knots on the fishing net. From where she was, she could see some of the villagers fetching water from the stream, some drank from it.
The stream, apart from serving as a source for fishing for them, was also where they fetched water for cooking and drinking. It was virtually where they got water for everything.
The sun was already setting by the time Jabari and her mother got to the village square for the meeting. The villagers had already gathered and the meeting had already started.
The village chief said he had done all he could to find out the cause of the deaths. The village native doctor had told him that about five people were currently ill and from the look of things, they didn’t look like they would make it.
From the chief’s countenance, Jabari could tell he was worried.
“I have exhausted my options. I don’t know what to do again. So, I will make a proposition,” said the chief.
He continued, “I am willing to give a vast portion of land to anyone who can discover the reason for these deaths and put an end to it”
Looking at one another, the villagers began to murmur, each one with his neighbor.
“Whoever it is, you have just two days to do so as the situation is very critical,” the chief’s booming words jolted the entire village to action as everyone hurried off to their homes.
By the time Jabari and her mother got home, it had begun to rain. They had supper and discussed the meeting at the village square.
Jabari was of the opinion that whoever it was that would find the solution would not only save the village but get a fat reward in the end. With that thought, she fell asleep.
Jabari’s rumbling stomach woke her from her sleep. It felt like her intestines were having a battle. She must have eaten something bad. She needed to poo…fast!
She made her way outside the hut to the path that led to the stream. Though it wasn’t quite bright, Jabari could see faint light from the sun that was being forced into hiding by the cloudy sky. Just at that moment, a big drop of rain plopped on her thick nose.
“I hope I can finish up before the rain lets loose,” Jabari thought to herself as she hurriedly found a spot in the bush by the path. To her disgust, she saw loose patterns of feces close to where she was, an indication that it was a defecation spot.
Making a face, she moved to inspect another spot a few meters away. From there, she could see the stream rippling gently from the rain which had begun to fall heavily. Convinced there was no unpleasant surprise awaiting her, Jabari squatted and began her business.
As she did so, she noticed that the rain was creating a puddle a few feet from her and the water in the puddle flowed towards the stream, taking with it all of the feces. Realization hit her.
Their source of drinking water was contaminated which was why people were falling ill! Jabari gasped wordlessly.
Quickly, she cleaned up and raced to the village, eager to share her discovery with the others. Jabari told her mother the moment she got home and they both went to the village chief.
Five days later, the chief had a water fountain built where rainwater was collected for drinking and cooking. Jabari got her reward and dedicated a portion to the village where they built defecation systems. The deaths ceased and the villagers became happy again.
End of Climatestory
*“mimi ni mgonjwa nataka kuona daktari” is a Swahili expression for “I am sick, I need to see a doctor”