Abna is a young mother of three living just outside Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. She left her village about two years ago in search of work.
I often noticed Abna carrying 250ml pouches of water in a plastic bag on her way home. From time to time, we would chat about banal topics – “How was your day? Are the children healthy? Are the children enjoying school?” One day I got enough nerve to ask about the pouches of water, and why she bought them, almost daily? Personally, I was a tyrannical hater of plastic. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to drink from plastic products, put their purchases in them, or cover their food with them.
This is what she said to me. “Tantie, I cannot afford to buy one large jug of water. I only make enough money daily to buy single pouches. If I want my children to have fresh water to drink, then I have to buy water in these sacks. When we were in the village, we could walk to the river or the well for water. In the city, I have no such options.”
As I listened to Abna lamenting her decision to move to the city, there was a part of me that wondered how we had let her and our planet down. How is it that Abna, and so many more like her, had fallen trap to this world of plastic. The next day, I saw from a distance her plastic bag with four new water pouches.
It is no wonder that the open drains and rivers of West Africa are overtaken with plastic pollution. But, there is a glimmer of hope. Governments across the continent are waking up to the environmental crisis. They’re banning plastic bags and single use plastic products, taking early steps to make their communities better. Will these steps help Abna provide her children with potable water? Time will finish telling this story.