July, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Patrick Okhaso Nyanje
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.
Patrick Okhaso Nyanje is a man of many skills. At 40 years old, Patrick's main line of work is as a driver for the local Member of Parliament from Mumias East. At home, Patrick also runs a brick-making business using water from Nyanje Spring in addition to serving as the Chair of the spring's water user committee. As the landowner of the spring, ensuring clean water continues to serve not just his family, but also his home community of Mungakha, Kenya is at the heart of everything Patrick does.
Patrick Okhaso Nyanje outside his home in Mungakha
Our team recently visited Mungakha 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 Patrick shared his story of how the coronavirus has impacted his life.
Program Coordinator Protus Ekesa met Patrick outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Protus and Patrick observed social distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. Their questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the protection of Nyanje Spring?
"People used to fetch water from wells, but since the installation of this water point, people have shifted their attention and are now using the spring water for drinking and house chores. The number of water users has increased, and we are no longer suffering from waterborne diseases like Amoeba and Typhoid."
Patrick fetches water from Nyanje Spring.
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?
"Fetching water has changed since I am now more careful while fetching water in observing social distancing, washing my hands, and also ensuring that I avoid crowds at the spring. I am happy that the virus does not affect the water and is safe for drinking anytime."
Community members observe social distancing as they line up to fetch water from Nyanje Spring after Patrick.
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"Having clean water has been so beneficial because I am using the water to wash my hands. Clean water has helped my children not to go looking for water elsewhere; therefore, they are avoiding gathering at water points. This has helped my family and me greatly."
Patrick washes his hands using water from the spring and the leaky tin he established outside his home.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"I am not able to go to work as I used to because so many things have been shut down, and my employer is not coming home as he used to. The children have been affected negatively since they are now staying at home since schools were closed down till further notice. We don't know when they will be back in school."
Editor's Note: Since Patrick's interview, Kenya's president announced that primary and secondary schools have a tentative reopening date of January 2021.
Patrick with his wife and kids at home
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"I am not able to socialize as I used to because I do not know who has the disease and who doesn't have the disease. I am afraid of even meeting my boss when he comes back since he meets so many people in Nairobi and I may not be safe."
"I am not able to provide for my family as I used to before COVID-19 came. This is because there is no money and work is low; businesses are not as they used to be. I used to travel with my boss to Nairobi, sometimes in Mombasa, and it was beneficial since I could be paid extra, but the pandemic has confined me to Mumias East Sub-County."
Patrick shows some of his current stock of bricks for sale made using water from Nyanje Spring
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"The community is adhering to the government directives on wearing masks, keeping social distance, and washing their hands with clean water and soap. The member of parliament for Mumias East has provided handwashing stations and placed them at strategic places like boda boda shades (motorbike taxi driver hubs) and market entries. He has also provided sanitation booths where someone can pass through and get sanitized, especially when going home so that in case you sat at a place where the virus is, your clothes are sanitized and you are free before meeting your family at home."
Area Member of Parliament for Mumias East Mr. Washali takes the inaugural walk through one of the chlorine sanitization booths he installed in the area.
"The Member of Parliament has also provided the community with infrared non-contact thermometers to test the community members to ensure they know their [temperature] status. I have a handwashing station [at home], and I am keeping social distance. I am also wearing a mask when leaving home and washing hands with soaps regularly."
The infrared forehead thermometer the Member of Parliament from Mumias East, Mr. Washali, is bringing to his communities.
What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?
"Curfew hours have been reduced. It used to be from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am, but it was lifted partially. It's now from 9:00 pm to 4:00 am. This made me excited because I have [enough] time to get home before curfew time, and I can avoid encountering security personnel who are enforcing the curfew!"
Patrick shows his mask before putting it on.
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"Opening of places of worship."
When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Patrick listed the radio, television, newspaper, loudspeaker/megaphone announcements, word of mouth, and our team's sensitization training.
Patrick puts on his face mask.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"Handwashing during this pandemic period, how to make face masks at home, and [reassurance that] the water at the spring is not contaminated [with the virus]."
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Mungakha Community, Nyanje Spring
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.
Team Leader Emmah kicks off training when community members observe social distancing
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 Mungakha, Kenya.
Trainer Protus installs a leaky tin handwashing station near the spring
We trained more than 15 people 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.
Emmah leads the handwashing demonstration
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.
Emmah explains the importance of rinsing clean hands with clean running water
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.
A woman washes her hands with soap
During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s spring, 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.
A young boy washes his hands
We continue to stay in touch with this community as the pandemic progresses. We want to ensure their water point remains functional and their community stays informed about the virus.
A woman washes her hands
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.
November, 2019: Giving Update: Mungakha Community, Nyanje Spring
A year ago, your generous donation helped Mungakha Community in Kenya access clean water.
There’s an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water at Nyanje Spring in Mungakha. Month after month, their giving supports ongoing sustainability programs that help this community maintain access to safe, reliable water. Read more…
January, 2019: Mungakha Community, Nyanje Spring Project Complete
Mungakha Community is celebrating their new protected spring, so celebrate with them! Nyanje Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of water thanks to your donation. The spring is protected from contamination, five sanitation platforms have been provided for the community, and training has been done on sanitation and hygiene.
We communicated with Mr. Okhaso, who had already shown so much leadership in rallying his neighbors to help our artisan construct the spring protection. He helped us invite community members to attend hygiene and sanitation training. Anyone who draws water from Nyanje Spring was invited.
Training was held under a shade tree near the spring, which fit our total number of 26 participants. Most of the people were women, who are traditionally seen as most responsible for water-related and sanitation-related chores around the household.
The participants were actively involved and the training was so interactive that the community members almost talked more than our trainers.
Several topics were covered during the training, such as personal and environmental hygiene; common local diseases and their prevention; care of the water point. The ten steps of handwashing were demonstrated, along with demonstrations for dental hygiene and water treatment.
The training has helped community members understand the dangers of open defecation and also understand the importance of handling water carefully. For example, they had been using leaves to stuff in their container openings to avoid water spillage. They had also been storing drinking water for too long.
Water user committee members were voted on and then later trained on spring care, management, and other factors to make this water project sustainable. Mr. Patrick Okhaso, our contact person for this project, was elected as on of the leaders of this committee.
"After forming this water user community management committee, we will ensure we come up with an idea to invest into something that will help us earn some income from the spring. We will also have to be meeting so as to ensure we have unity through this spring protection," said Mr. Okhaso.
"The training we have received is sufficient enough to make us venture into something that will boost us."
All five sanitation platforms have been installed and make wonderful, easy to clean latrine floors. These five families are happy about this milestone of having a latrine of their own. We are continuing to encourage families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors.
Construction at Nyanje Spring was successful and water is now flowing from the discharge pipe.
There were minimal challenges during the during this project. The only short delay was that the sand and stones the community had gathered for the artisan ended up not being enough, so people went back out to find more.
"This water is going to help us reduce the distance that we have been walking looking for clean water. Many people are going to use this water because it serves so many during dry season specifically," said Mr. Okhaso.
"This will help us come together and work as a team here."
Community members provided all locally available construction materials (e.g bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, wheelbarrows of ballast, and gravel). Community members also hosted our artisans for the duration of construction.
Women carrying bricks from the top of the hill down to where the artisan is working.
The spring area was excavated with jembes, hoes, and spades to create space for setting the foundation of polyethylene, wire mesh, and concrete.
After the base had been set, both wing walls and the headwall were set in place using brickwork. The discharge pipe was fixed low in place through the headwall to direct the water from the reservoir to the drawing area.
As the wing walls and headwall cured, the stairs were set and ceramic tiles were fixed directly below the discharge pipe. This protects the concrete from the erosive force of the falling water and beautifies the spring. The process of plastering the headwall and wing walls on both sides reinforces the brickwork and prevents water from the reservoir from seeping through the walls and allows pressure to build in the collection box to push water up through the discharge pipe.
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a polyethylene membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination.
The concrete dried over the course of five days. With this spring now handed over to the community, we will continue to follow up with the water committee to make sure everything runs smoothly. They have already fenced in the spring area and planted grass to prevent erosion.
We will be making follow-up visits as we carry out The Water Promise, with the intention of ensuring that the project is sustainable and that the community has changed - not just the clean water and hygiene, but that their quality of life has changed for the better.
January, 2019: Mungakha Community, Nyanje Spring Project Underway
Dirty water from Nyanje Spring is making people in Mungakha Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.
Get to know your community through the narrative and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with more good news!