July, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Wathi Muisyo
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.
The spread of COVID-19 in Kenya has brought new challenges to 70-year-old Wathi Muisyo.
"My family has been affected greatly by Coronavirus. Kenyan citizens were advised to stay at home due to the virus," she told us recently.
Wathi Muisyo, 70, at home
"All the market days were closed down; as a result, we are unable to sell our farm products. Financial income at this time is difficult, thus making the purchase of supplementary foodstuffs from the shops impossible. Fortunately, this year we have had bountiful harvests, so we have sufficient food to eat at home, thanks to the rains received. I am praying for this virus to end."
Wathi is a member of the Ukava wa Kithoni Self-Help Group that constructed a sand dam and well for their Kithoni community last year.
She used to worry about how to fetch water each day. Before the project, the nearest water source was the Kwa Makiti River located more than a mile from the village. Its water table is shallow and dries up as soon as the rains stop. She and other community members then had to walk to River Kikuo, which is nearly 3 miles from their village - a journey that took about an hour to walk each way.
Things are different now.
"Getting water from the water source has been easy for my family and me because we have a sand dam and shallow well project, which is a stone's throw away from my home. In just a few strokes, the jerrycans are full of water. The water is readily available for us, and we can fetch it at any time of the day," she told us.
Wathi and her family are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her 5 grandchildren live with her right now because the schools are closed. Their parents (her children) work in Nairobi and are not allowed to leave the city due to travel restrictions.
"I am very worried about them as the situation there is very hard," Wathi said, referring to her children.
"They cannot go to work, and we are also unable to send food to them. The remittances that they would send to us are no longer possible because they are not working."
Wathi and her grandchildren
An unprecedented effort in Kenya has helped reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the country. But the restrictions on businesses and the national daily curfew are creating a series of new challenges for people in the country.
"Before this virus, we would work by selling farm products to buy any household necessities or packed foodstuffs such as rice, sugar, and salt. Now, we have to survive on the little that we have because we have no financial income to replenish them once they run out," she said.
"We have harvested a lot of food such as maize, cowpeas, pigeon peas, and beans from our farms because the previous rainy season was adequate, and we thank God for that. We have enough food on our farms to feed our families."
At a time of uncertainty, we continue to support communities so that they can at least count on one thing - access to a safe, reliable water source.
"Having a sand dam project at this time has been very beneficial, and we express our gratitude to The Water Project for their support. Getting water is easy and is not time-consuming at all," Wathi said.
Wathi washes her hands at home.
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Kithoni 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.
Wathi Muisyo, 70
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 Kithoni, 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. We met Wathi Muisyo during our training and she shared how her life has changed due to COVID-19.
Wathi and her two grandchildren at home
“Having a sand dam project at this time has been very beneficial, and we express our gratitude to The Water Project for their support. Getting water is easy and is not time-consuming at all,” Wathi said.
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: Kithoni Community Sand Dam Complete
Kithoni 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. Recent rains have helped the dam begin to build up sand and store water. With this water, the surrounding landscape will become lush and fertile.
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!
"The water point is very beneficial to us," said Patrick Mutie.
"Attaining water in this region has been very hectic and we have been walking for very long distances to fetch water. We are sure once we experience the rains, the sand dam will harvest volumes of water. The project is near most our homes and the energy expended in the pursuit of water will be conserved greatly."
We worked with the Ukava Wa Kithoni 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 71.1 meters long, 4.5 meters high and took 553 bags of cement to build.
The community hygiene and sanitation training was planned by our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer Veronica Matolo in collaboration with field officer Muendo Ndambuki. The self-help group chairperson was notified to mobilize the group members for attendance and participation.
The training was well attended on all three days with the most number of people attending the last day, including a village elder. We took that as a positive sign that word already spread around the community about the project and the importance of the lessons from the training. The training is a participatory learning approach that seeks to empower communities to improve hygiene behaviors, reduce diarrheal diseases, and encourage effective community management of water and sanitation sources.
The training was held at the construction site under a tree shade. On the training day, it was very sunny and windy. The tree did not provide enough shade because at some point it got too sunny and we had to relocate. The venue was not so conducive for training, being an open place, and the wind made the place dusty.
The attendees displayed an extreme interest in the topics of discussion based on the questions they asked and their constant participation. The topics of discussion were relatable to their day-to-day activities and this increased their levels of participation.
Our teams decided to train on topics including:
- Health problems in the community
- Investigating community practices
- Good and bad hygiene behaviors
- How diseases spread and preventing the spread of diseases
- Choosing sanitation improvements
- Choosing improved hygiene behaviors
- Planning for behavioral change
We broadly discussed the disease transmission routes, good and bad hygiene behaviors, and blocking the spread of diseases. It's aimed at helping the community identify their health problems, causes, control, and management. The group divided into two and each sub-group was given the task of identifying the common diseases in the region and the causes and effects they have in the community at large.
The trainer then helped them to identify the best methods to control and manage the spread/risks of contracting the diseases. One of the methods identified was handwashing, and this was established through the construction of a tippy tap.
"We expect a lot of change in our homesteads as a result of this training. For instance, it will help us improve the hygiene of our compounds, food, kitchen, our latrines, practice water treatment and hand washing which will eventually help in the prevention of diseases," Mr. Mutie said.
"We will be ambassadors since if we implement what has been trained, the entire community will learn from us and we will improve the entire community's hygiene standards."
Another activity that garnered a lot of interest was soapmaking. Members were eager to learn the procedure because it was a new idea. The soap making activity was special since the members discovered that the skill would be beneficial for improving hygiene standards and help some people increase income if people made soap and sold it in local markets.
"The soap will be a very reliable source of income for the group members," Mr. Mutie said.
According to the facilitator, Veronica Matolo, the group will need minimal follow-up to check their adoption rate as they expressed willingness and motivation to learn more. They are likely to implement training content within a short period of time.
Thank You for making all of this possible.
April, 2019: Kithoni Community Sand Dam Project Underway
People living in Kithoni currently have to walk a very long way to find water, and that water isn’t even clean. Thanks to your generosity, we are working to build a sand dam that will bring water closer to home for hundreds of people.
Get to know this community by reading the introduction and pictures we’ve posted, and read more about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project and how it works. We look forward to reaching out again when we have more news!