August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Agnes Katethya Mutheki
This post is part of a new series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting them. We invite you to read more of their stories here.
Our team recently visited Mbau Community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic is affecting their lives.
It was during this most recent visit that Agnes Katethya Mutheki shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her his life.
Field Officer Titus Mbithi met Agnes outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Titus and Agnes observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Agnes's story, in her own words.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
The water point has been providing us with clean water since its installation. All surrounding homesteads have unlimited access to available water resources. Again, many people have now established small kitchen gardens using the water where they are growing kales, tomatoes, and cabbages. This will help improve our eating habits.
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
Having a reliable, clean water source has been of great importance to us, we are all using the available water to maintain the regular handwashing at home while also maintaining high standards of hygiene and sanitation. Having water from within is also helping towards ensuring we avoid traveling for long distances in search of water.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?
Yeah, there was a change. Initially, I only stayed with my husband at home. Now, my grandchildren are around, which means more water is needed at home for daily use and also for maintaining the high standards of hygiene and sanitation. Fortunately, there are no major restrictions on fetching water.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
Covid-19 has affected my family, especially my children and grandchildren. One of my sons was locked down in town all along - even after he had lost his job. It was a nightmare for us to support him with our meager income. My daughter also came to visit us here with her three children. When the cessation of movement orders was implemented, she couldn't travel back to her home.
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Now that my husband and I are aged, we have been dependent on our children for upkeep. This pandemic has made most of them lose their jobs, which has been a blow to us, leading to a fall in living standards.
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you taken to stop the spread of the virus?
Most of the community members have installed handwashing stations at their homes to ensure regular hand washing all the time. We are also wearing face masks while in public places as a measure to avoid the virus.
Like most governments around the world, the Kenyan government continues to set and adjust restrictions both nationally and regionally to help control the spread of the disease.
What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?
The government lifted the movement restrictions yesterday. It is a major reprieve to my children who were locked in major towns after losing their jobs. Now they can travel home and live here with us.
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
I look forward to the lifting of the curfew restrictions and opening of schools so that life can go back to normal.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
We learned how handwashing with clean water and soap stops the spread of the virus and the importance of wearing face masks while in public places.
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Agnes listed the radio, word of mouth, and our team's sensitization training.
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Mbau Community
Our teams are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us in our fight against the virus while maintaining access to clean, reliable water.
We are carrying out awareness and prevention trainings on the virus in every community we serve. Very often, our teams are the first (and only) to bring news and information of the virus to rural communities like Mbau, Kenya.
We trained community members on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19.
Due to public gathering concerns, we worked with trusted community leaders to gather a select group of community members who would then relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.
We covered essential hygiene lessons:
- Demonstrations on how to build a simple handwashing station
- Proper handwashing technique
- The importance of using soap and clean water for handwashing
- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces including at the water point.
We covered COVID-19-specific guidance in line with national and international standards:
- Information on the symptoms and transmission routes of COVID-19
- What social distancing is and how to practice it
- How to cough into an elbow
- Alternative ways to greet people without handshakes, fist bumps, etc.
- How to make and properly wear a facemask.
During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point.
Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we also dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed.
Water access, sanitation, and hygiene are at the crux of disease prevention. You can directly support our work on the frontlines of COVID-19 prevention in all of the communities we serve while maintaining their access to safe, clean, and reliable water.
June, 2019: Mbau Community Sand Dam Complete
Mbau Community, Kenya now has a new source of water thanks to your donation. A new dam was constructed on the riverbed, which will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water.
It could take up to three years of rain (because sometimes it only rains once a year!) for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity. Sand dam construction was undertaken simultaneously with the construction of a hand-dug well that will give community members a safe method of drawing water. As the sand dam matures and stores more sand, a supply of water will be available for drinking from the adjacent hand-dug well. To see that hand-dug well, click here.
Construction for this dam was a success!
We worked with the Yangondi Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and physical labor to complete the projects. In addition, they were trained on various skills such as bookkeeping, financial management, project management, and group dynamics/governance.
When an issue arises in relation to the water project, the group members are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure it works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact their field officer to assist them.
Sand Dam Construction Process
The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand that were required for successful completion of the dam. They also provided unskilled labor to support our artisans. The collection of raw construction materials takes longer than the actual construction. For a super large sand dam, materials collection could take up to four months.
While we delivered more expensive materials like cement, lumber, and work tools, community members gathered sand, stones, and water.
Siting and technical designs were drawn and presented to the Water Resources Management Authority and a survey sent to the National Environment Management Authority for approval before construction started. Once approved, we established a firm bedrock at the base of the sand dam wall. In the absence of good bedrock, excavation is done up to a depth at which the technical team is satisfied that the ground is firm enough to stop seepage.
Then mortar (a mixture of sand, cement, and water) is mixed and heaped into the foundation. Rocks are heaped into the mortar once there is enough to hold. Barbed wire and twisted bar are used to reinforce the mixture. Once the foundation is complete, a skeleton of timber is built to hold the sludge and rocks up above ground level. The process is then repeated until a sufficient height, width and length are built up. The vertical timber beams are dismantled and the dam is left to cure.
After 34 days of construction, the final dam is 42.55 meters long, 4.5 meters high and took 483 bags of cement to build.
The community hygiene and sanitation training was planned by our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer Veronica Matolo. Once the date was decided, the self-help group leaders went door to door to invite everyone. Since this is the second project with this self-help group, it is also the second training with them. The two days served as an opportunity to build on the lessons learned a year ago and find areas in need of improvement.
It was noted that there was a lot of open defecation being practiced in this community. Some 14 sites were found at intervals of less than 100 meters apart. A week before the training was done, follow-ups were conducted in the areas where open defecation was identified. Consultations were made to encourage families to construct latrines in order to eliminate open defecation from the community.
"This hygiene promotion training has helped us stop open defecation and for that reason, we'll be healthier and less exposed to risks of contracting diseases," said Mr. Mutheki Muvengei.
There were 21 participants in all. Members agreed that the training would take place at the homestead of Mr. Muvengei; the shade was enough for training although the weather was relatively harsh as it was hot. The environment was conducive and no distractions of any kind were experienced.
The group members expressed keen interest in the training and the topics of discussion. Members were very attentive and showed interest by asking questions and volunteering to be used as examples during the demonstrative learning. The participants were quite aware and informed about most hygiene practices from the previous training that was done.
They decided to train on:
- Health problems in our community
- Good and bad hygiene behaviors
- Choosing sanitation improvement
- Planning for change
- Handwashing exercise
The community members really benefited from water treatment discussions.
The handwashing exercise was conducted right after the participants highlighted disease transmission routes; handwashing is really the easiest and most efficient barrier to the spread of disease. The members were taught an easy way of constructing a tippy tap using local materials. The technique behind the handwashing facility was simpler and more hygienic compared to the type that they were taught before. Members vowed to maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene in their homesteads as well as on individual levels. This ensures each household can have a handwashing station near their latrine.
"We will start treating our drinking water, improve on personal hygiene, compound, food and utensils hygiene, through the installation of sanitation infrastructures like tippy tap and utensil racks," Mr. Muvengei said.
"The money that we have been using to seek treatment will be invested in other income generating activities because after practicing what has been trained we will be able to prevent ourselves from contracting diseases."
Thank You for making all of this possible.
May, 2019: Mbau Community Sand Dam Underway
Hundreds of people living in Mbau walk a very long way to get water. Valuable time, energy, and health are lost in pursuit of one of life's most important resources. Thanks to your generosity, we are working to solve this issue by building a water point nearby.
Get to know this community through the narrative and pictures we've posted, and read about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out again with news of success!