August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Gerald Inzuka
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 Shihingo to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Inzuka 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 54-year-old Gerald Inzuka shared his story of how the coronavirus has impacted his life. Gerald is a farmer, father, and a leader in his community. As part of the family that owns the spring's land, Gerald is highly involved in the care and maintenance of the spring to ensure its longevity. He also serves as Chair of the local self-help group in Shihingo.
Gerald Inzuka stands next to his handwashing station outside his home in Shihingo.
Field Officer Patience Wanyonyi Njeri met Gerald outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Patience and Gerald observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. Their questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Gerald shares what has changed in his community since the protection of Inzuka Spring, and he walks us through 2 of his new norms since the start of the pandemic: frequent handwashing and wearing a mask.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the protection of Inzuka Spring?
"We now can access clean and safe water. Before, many people would suffer from waterborne diseases, but with the installation, the rates have drastically reduced."
Gerald fetches water at Inzuka Spring.
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"We can easily access clean water for use in households, meaning we can wash our hands any time and every time we want to."
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, a lot has changed. We have to observe social distancing. We also have to wear masks And we have to wash our hands before fetching the water. We can't go in groups like we used to, because we have to observe social distancing."
Community members observe physical distancing while wearing masks at the spring.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"During this period of the pandemic, I have had to close my business because of the financial crisis. Also, I recently lost a son who was 30-years-old and who was sick in this period. The saddest thing is that some of the siblings weren't able to come because of the restrictions [on movement] in the country."
Gerald (right) with his twin brother Patrick Inzuka.
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"My children working in outside counties are struggling due to the reductions in jobs that they used to do because they are just jua kali (day-to-day workers), and the pandemic has really affected the economy so getting what to do on a daily basis has become a struggle."
Patrick and Gerald check on their bricks, which they typically sell to earn a part of their income.
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"We have put handwashing stations in households so that everyone can get to wash hands. We have learned to maintain social distancing in our daily activities, also we now have to wear masks to keep ourselves safe."
Gerald washes his hands with soap and clean water from Inzuka Spring using a handwashing station he set up outside his home.
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?
"Lockdown has been lifted so we can now travel freely, and the curfew time has been extended."
Gerald stands next to his chickens in their coop behind his house.
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"Allowing the elderly to go to church."
When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Jared listed the radio, television, and our team's sensitization training.
Gerald poses for his portrait wearing his mask while at the spring.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"Learning how to wash hands, making face masks, and what to do in case you suspect you are infected."
September, 2019: Shihingo Community, Inzuka Spring Project Complete!
Shihingo Community now has access to clean water! Inzuka Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of water thanks to your donation. We protected the spring, provided 5 sanitation platforms to different households in the community, and we trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices.
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, including bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, stones, and fencing poles. In this special spring protection, the lead artisan, Alphonce Musirwa, was a local from Shihingo and therefore required no special accommodations to stay in the community. His neighbors did, however, provide all of his meals while he worked.
Women and men lent their strength to Alphonce to help him with the 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.
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 thick plastic tarp to prevent potential sources of contamination. It took about 2 weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
Teamwork helps complete the staircase
Alphonce and those who assisted him experienced several challenges during the construction of this spring, but none that were not overcome. After excavation works were almost done, it rained heavily, disrupting them from work. The rain took almost an hour to subside, they then resumed work later trying to finish and cast the foundation slab only for Alphonce to realize that it was too late for them to cast the foundation slab and the weather of the day was not favorable. They had to stop work so that they could resume the following day.
On the second day, to their surprise, the drainage channel they had so diligently dug out had caved in. This was like beginning the excavation work all over again. Alphonce was a bit worried about this, but his fellow community members turned up in large numbers to assist him. It took them almost a half a day to complete the drainage channel and cast the foundation slab. From that day forward, the work went on smoothly with only a few other rainstorms presenting a challenge.
As soon as the protected spring was ready, people got the okay from our field officers to begin fetching clean water. We met them there to celebrate this momentous occasion.
"The new water point is so attractive and this water point now discharges clean water that from the look of an eye, there is no need of treating it before consumption," said Arnol Muse, an older leader within the community.
"I am in charge of [the] chlorine dispenser [at the spring] and I hope those who have been having allergic [reactions from] consuming water treated with chlorine will no longer have any challenge."
The newly completed spring has solved so many challenges that the community members have been facing. The fact that the spring is located in a fairly rolling terrain has been a challenge to its water users. Whenever it rained, running water would deposit all kinds of contamination into the spring, thus making the community members prone to waterborne and water-related diseases.
For community members here, this project has meant that their prayers have finally been answered. Before the protection, for people to draw water in the spring they had to carry a small container for filling their bigger container by scooping the water into it. But now, things have changed for the better. Limited time is spent drawing water, and that water is safer and cleaner.
Field Officer Jonathan (left) with community members including Alphonce (right)
All 5 sanitation platforms have been installed. These 5 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.
New sanitation platform owners
Alphonce the same lead artisan who helped protect Inzuka Spring was tasked with organizing the hygiene and sanitation 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.
Some 14 people attended training, evenly split between women and men. We were originally expecting more than 20 people to attend training, but because there was a funeral in that community other members had gone to assist the bereaved family and thus could not attend.
Community member (left) and facilitator (right) lead an activity
On that day, it dawned bright and early in the morning but toward 9:00 am the weather changed and became gloomy, making the environment cold. This did not affect our training, however, because it did not last long with our smaller audience. We held our training under trees' shade outside Mr. Atanas' homestead. The venue was conducive for learning and every participant was able to sit comfortably.
We covered several topics including leadership and governance; operation and maintenance of the spring; healthcare; family planning; immunizations; and the prevention and spread of disease. We also covered water treatment methods, personal care like handwashing, environmental hygiene, hygiene promotion, and many other things.
Community member answers a question
The participants showed active participation throughout the training by asking questions and responding to issues our facilitators raised. The women showed themselves to be more informed on issues related to hygiene and family planning, but the men were not left out because some of them were community health volunteers who also advocate for hygiene and family planning at the community level.
Spring operation and maintenance training
While covering the best practices for operation and maintenance of the spring, the facilitator and the participants discussed the different possibilities of things that might affect the spring's functioning, cause reduced discharge, and possibly contaminate the water even though the spring has been protected. What made this topic special was when participants realized that planting certain species like eucalyptus trees around the water source would reduce discharge speed. They also learned to understand that washing their clothes at the water source using different detergents could contaminate the water too.
In our discussion on personal hygiene, participants learned the correct way of doing things such as proper handwashing using soap and running water, rather than using standing water in a basin. We also covered toothbrushing, explaining how teeth should be brushed in a gentle, circular manner to avoid injuring the gums. This topic became memorable when participants learned that tooth health and tooth decay can be caused by not just sugary foods but also foods high in starch if left on teeth for some time before brushing with the recommended toothpaste.
Participation from all ages
"Today's training is like a wake-up alarm to us," said Adelight Itambo, a local farmer.
"Much [improvement] on sanitation and hygiene practices is still needed from us, [but] lucky enough we have learned a lot which will change our lives. For me [and] my family, we have been all washing our hands in a basin without using running water, [and] it's true that others have [been] washing their hands with dirty water."
Thank you for making all of this possible!