Like many people in Africa, Siabatou Sanneh must walk to get the fresh water that her family needs for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Sanneh, accompanied by two of her daughters — ages 10 and 4 — walks five miles to a well for her water. On her return trip, she carries 40-45 pounds of water on her head. She does this at least three times a day.

Sanneh works with an organization called Water For Africa to help bring sustainable wells, as well as the tools and knowledge to care for them, to small African communities. Although she had never before left her home country of Gambia, Sanneh made a journey last week to help draw attention to the Water For Africa cause. With 45 pounds of water on her head, flip flops on her feet, and a race number pinned to her traditional Gambian garb, Sanneh walked the Paris Marathon — roughly the same distance that she travels each day to obtain fresh water. 

You can believe that she stood out from the standard running crowd.

While she walked the race, she also wore a sign that read, in French: “In Africa, women travel this distance everyday to get potable water. Help us shorten the distance.”

Water For Africa estimates that 200 to 300 water pumps would supply the needs of the whole population of Gambia to have closer access to clean water. And they are racing against the clock to secure those pumps as they note that 40 to 60 percent of the current wells and pumping systems in place are badly deteriorating. 

Sanneh's walk at the Paris Marathon captured the attention of people around the world. And she is thrilled that her efforts may help eliminate the need for future generations to walk so far just to get water each day. “I don't want my children and their children to be collecting water from the well when they are my age,” said Sanneh.

To watch a video of Sanneh's Paris Marathon walk, check out Water For Africa's Marathon Walker website.

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Woman walks marathon with 45 lbs. water on her head
Gambia's Siabatou Sanneh hoped to draw attention to the distance that many women and children must walk every day in Africa to get fresh water.