November, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Ivy Okhaso
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 Emukangu to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Okhaso Spring. 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 Ivy Okhaso shared her story of how the coronavirus is impacting her life and her community. Ivy is an 18-year-old student who, like so many others her age across Kenya, is unexpectedly at home due to national school closures.
Ivy with her mask on
Field Officer Georgina Kamau met Ivy outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Georgina and Ivy observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Ivy's story, in her own words.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
"Before construction, the spring was dangerous, especially for the children. Water was not easily accessible, but now we trust that our children are safe when we send them to the spring."
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"Water is essential to life and also during this time of the pandemic. At least we are close to clean water, thus handwashing and hygiene are of high priority to us."
Ivy washing her hands with soap and clean water from the spring using a leaky tin handwashing station
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?
"Yes indeed. We now ensure that we avoid overcrowding at the spring, therefore the timing for fetching water has also changed. I personally prefer fetching water during the day when there are fewer people."
Ivy fetching water from Okhaso Spring while two younger children wait in line.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"Since the outbreak, my parents have not been earning as much money as before, so getting the necessary needs like sanitary pads has been a bit difficult because such things were freely provided in school."
Ivy with her mother outside their home
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"I can not mingle with my friends freely. Furthermore, we have limited activities."
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"Having the spring has helped us improvise handwashing stations because we have free-flowing water."
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Ivy listed the radio, television, newspaper, and non-governmental organization (NGO) trainings including our own team's sensitization training.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"The most helpful sensitization training received is how COVID-19 spreads and how to protect yourself."
July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Emukangu Community, Okhaso 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.
Describing COVID-19 using Ministry of Health posters
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 Emukangu, Kenya.
Training on tippy tap handwashing station use
We trained more than 12 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.
Everyone practices the 10 steps of handwashing
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, along with a sign with reminders of what we covered.
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.
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.
Putting on a mask made at training
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.
August, 2019: Emukangu Community, Okhaso Spring Complete!
Emukangu Community now has clean water! Okhaso Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of clean 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.
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, e.g bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, stones, and fencing poles. Accommodations and meals were provided for the artisan, too.
Community member delivers bricks to the artisan
Kids deliver home-cooked meals to the artisan
Men and women lent their strength to the artisan to help him with manual labor. The spring area was excavated to create space for setting the foundation of thick plastic tarp, 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.
Helping mix cement
As the wing walls and headwall were curing, 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 plastic membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination. There were slight delays here and there in relation to the collection of sand and stones, which only affected the construction by a few hours in the day. Once the community mobilized more of each material, however, the challenges were not major and they were overcome which allowed the construction to be completed as scheduled.
Drying sanitation platform
It took about two weeks of patience for the concrete to dry. As soon as it was ready, people got the okay from our field officers to begin fetching clean water. We met them there to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Rose Khasungu, a businesswoman living in Emukangu, was very pleased with the project's completion.
"This spring is beautiful. The previous water source made us even fear collecting water from it," he said.
"Right now, one can even get tempted to drink up straight from the drawing pipe but we know better as per the training you have given us. Thank you for working with us to ensure that this project is a success."
All five sanitation platforms have been installed. These five families are happy about this milestone of having a private latrine of their own and are optimistic that people will no longer leave waste outdoors. We are continuing to encourage families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors.
Sanitation platform beneficiaries
Christopher Taifa, a farmer in Emukangu and the now-Treasurer of the Okhaso Spring water user committee, was tasked with organizing the training. He gave us the community’s preferred date for training, for he was very much aware of the community calendar when it comes to planting season and other big events.
Treasurer Christopher Taifa
The attendance was slightly better than expected since we got to train 22 participants, which was more than the 20 members we requested. The participants' ages ranged from 2 years old to over 55 years old, which was very good since all the age groups had been represented.
The weather was favorable as it was a sunny morning, which allowed us to sit under a tree just next to the spring. The participants were comfortable sitting on the green grass since it had not rained the previous day so the grass was dry. They sat close to each other which made photo-taking easy and neat.
No challenges were faced during training since the members arrived in due time. They gave the instructors ample time to cover their topics through the end of the training sessions. One baby was crying but the mother gave it some milk and we were able to continue with the training.
We covered several topics including leadership and governance; operation and maintenance of the spring; healthcare; family planning; immunizations; the spread of disease and prevention. We also covered water treatment methods, personal care like handwashing, environmental hygiene, hygiene promotion, and many other things.
The women were seen to be more active during training since they gave the most examples and asked a lot of questions. Most of the men were elderly so they seemed to get tired after a few hours. The men were more of listeners while the women participated more.
During the family planning session, the participants were excited to learn more about the many different methods and their advantages. They were shocked to learn that different people react differently to different types of family planning methods and that they should consult a doctor for the best option. Some of the myths, like the one that says family planning causes barrenness, were demystified during the training.
We found the community to be well-informed of the chain of contamination, as they gave very many examples during this discussion. The participants were able to capture most of the things that we trained on, though we think they will need more training on-site management since they have so many roads leading to the spring, which means many people coming for water whom we did not get the chance to speak to.
The community was advised to choose one path that is easily accessible, and they promised to use only one terrain for every member who uses the spring. The rest of the footpaths that were passing through people's farms were disqualified.
Mr. Easton Akaliche
Easton Akaliche, a farmer who attended the training who is the landowner of the spring area and Chair of the water user committee, shared his thoughts on how it will impact his life.
"This spring is serving very many households in this community, and the number [of households] goes up during the dry season since this spring is not seasonal [and others nearby are]," he said.
"Helping us understand how to maintain and manage the spring so that it may continue serving more members for the longest time possible [is helpful]."
Thumbs up for running water
Okhaso Spring users were very happy with the project and could not stop thanking our team for the great job done. Despite some small challenges during construction, the community members were very collaborative with both the artisan and the field officer from start to finish. Since our first visit to Emukangu, the population using Okhaso Spring has increased by about 60 more people.
The dry season has majorly influenced the population increase since most of the seasonal springs in the area had dried up, forcing more users to collect water from Okhaso Spring. Mr. Easton Akaliche, the landowner of where Okhaso Spring is located, thanked everyone who participated in the project and promised the right to anyone to use the spring any time they need water.
Thank you for making all of this possible!
June, 2019: Emukangu Community, Okhaso Spring Project Underway
Dirty water from Okhaso Spring is making people in Emukangu Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to solve this issue by building a clean water point and much more.
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!