It was a chilly but sunny morning when we first visited Shitsuvio Community. It is a rural area characterized by green trees, overgrowth, and lush farms. It is calm; the loudest sounds are from livestock, roosters, and barking dogs.
Most of the families we visited farm to make a living; they are involved in planting sugarcane as a cash crop to sell to local sugar factories. Other crops such as maize, beans, and various vegetables are planted for the family to eat. Any excess is sold or traded at the nearest market.
It was a very difficult experience to see where these 490 people are getting their water. They have no other choice but to use dirty water from Shihevi Spring to meet their drinking, cooking, and cleaning needs. The area around the spring is muddy, and many women admitted that they have tripped and slipped into the spring on multiple occasions.
"Clean and safe water is the important resource that every human being depends on. In this community, we are suffering in terms of fetching and consuming dirty water," said Mr. Omuchidi.
The water itself looks disgusting. The spring is entirely open to all kinds of contamination, including wild animals that drink from it directly. There are always several people suffering from typhoid in this community at any given time, which is a direct result of drinking this dirty water. Treatment and medication have cost families a lot of time and money.
What we can do:
"Our current hygiene and sanitation standards are not addressed. Most homes do not practice the right activities as they lack correct information on the same," said Mrs. Flora Msteven.
Community members will attend hygiene and sanitation training for at least two days. This training will ensure participants have the knowledge they need about healthy practices and their importance. The facilitator plans to use PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation), CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation), ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development), group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring. One of the most important topics we plan to cover is the handling, storage, and treatment of water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it’s consumed. Handwashing will also be a big topic.
Training will also result in the formation of a committee that will oversee operations and maintenance at the spring. They will enforce proper behavior around the spring and delegate tasks that will help preserve the site, such as building a fence and digging proper drainage. The fence will keep out destructive animals, and the drainage will keep the area’s mosquito population at a minimum.
Around half of the households here have a latrine. But unfortunately, the latrines we happened to see were in a pathetic state. The bad odor was enough to keep us away. The floors of most of these latrines are wood slats suspended over the pit. This wood is prone to rot, which puts the user in danger of falling through into the pit.
On the final day of training, participants will select five families that should benefit from new concrete latrine floors.
Training will also inform the community and selected families on what they need to contribute to make this project a success. They must mobilize locally available materials, such as bricks, clean sand, hardcore, and ballast. The five families chosen for sanitation platforms must prepare by sinking a pit for the sanitation platforms to be placed over. All community members must work together to make sure that accommodations and food are always provided for the work teams.
Protecting the spring will ensure that the water is safe, adequate and secure. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water. With the community’s high involvement in the process, there should be a good sense of responsibility and ownership for the new clean water source.
Fetching water is predominantly a female role, done by both women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will, therefore, help empower the female members of the community by giving them more time and efforts to engage and invest in income-generating activities.