August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Abigail Amukoto
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 Ikonyero to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Amkongo 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 Abigail Amukoto shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her life. As Chair of the spring's water user committee, a farmer, and a mother, Abigail had a lot of concerns on her mind regarding the pandemic when we spoke with her.
Abigail shows 2 of her new norms: putting on a mask and washing her hands before leaving and returning home.
Training Officer Olivia Bomji Chebet met Abigial outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Olivia and Abigail observed social distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Abigail's story, in her own words.
Abigail fetches water at Amkongo Spring.
"Since the installation of the spring, we now fetch clean water that is not contaminated. The children can now fetch water freely without fear of falling in or fetching dirty water. It has helped a lot because we wash hands a lot during this pandemic. Having enough water has changed our lives for the better.
Now, we keep one-meter distance when fetching water at the spring. We ensure that we fetch enough water before the curfew starts. We no longer talk freely with our families, neighbors, and friends as we used to do.
Everyone practices social distancing at the spring, where our team's COVID-19 prevention reminders chart still hangs on the fence from our first sensitization training there.
We have ensured that every household has a handwashing station. We no longer visit each other but we have ensured that we wear masks. We acquired knowledge on mask making during the training - though I didn't make mine - but at least I have the skills to now.
The children no longer go to school and this has made life expensive because providing meals for the day is not easy. Being a farmer, I no longer sell my cereals because there are no customers to buy them, unlike before, so life has changed completely.
Abigail washes her hands with soap and clean water from Amkongo Spring using the handwashing station she set up outside her home.
The standard of living has changed and almost everything is expensive. I am psychologically drained because of the fear of contracting the disease and how my family will be sustained until the pandemic is over.
I was happy about the curfew being pushed to start at 9:00 pm instead of 7:00 pm because it will allow those with businesses to sell more. We are praying that the government will add more time to worship from 1 hour to 3 hours. This will give us enough time to pray, too."
Abigail wearing her mask.
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Abigail listed the radio, television, newspaper, our team's sensitization training.
"The most helpful part [of training] was handwashing and mask-making. I also learned that coughing on my hands is not acceptable or hygienic."
October, 2019: Ikonyero Community, Amkongo Spring Complete!
Ikonyero Community now has access to clean water! Amkongo 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.
Excited community members and field officers line up at the newly completed Amkongo Spring to fetch clean water
Construction of Amkongo Spring was like a dream to the community members, our field officers reported. Mr. Edward Adriano Twiti is an old man who attested that since he was born, he has been consuming water from this water source but said that it has only been God's will that he is alive today through challenges of waterborne and water-related diseases attached to the water point.
Initially, the water point was an open source and was exposed to agents of contamination from run-off rainwater. Besides that, the water point was full of green algae and water weeds that at the time could make it difficult to draw water from this water source. Not to mention the infestation of frogs which could dirty water while trying to hide under the water weeds. All these problems and challenges experienced before have been curbed through the protection of the spring. The community members are very happy and appreciative of the project!
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, including bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, stones, and fencing poles. Accommodations and meals were provided for the artisan, too.
Women and men 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.
Brickwork begins on top of the spring's foundation
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.
Working on the stairs and the rub wall
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a thick plastic tarp to prevent potential sources of contamination. The community members of this spring were so cooperative. This made the work run smoothly without any delays or challenges. It took about 2 weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
Adding stones to the backfilled area of the spring; these will help filter the water
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.
"We were not imagining after all this time our water source would be constructed like this. We are so happy and thankful to you people for considering our spring for protection. May our almighty Father reward you abundantly. The water from this spring now looks so clean. We are very optimistic that there will no longer be waterborne diseases attached to this water point after all this good work and hygiene [training] done here," said Abigeal Caspa, a farmer in Ikonyero who was also one of the champions behind organing her community's training.
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.
Sanitation platform construction
Though the sanitation platforms were not enough to be given to every community member, the community was very happy saying that cleanliness of the pit latrines will be so easy, unlike those made of wooden logs. The idea of the mobile platform was very much welcomed by the community members, saying it is so economical because once the pit latrine is full, the slab can be shifted to another new pit latrine.
Proud new sanitation platform owner
Gladys Munyalo Amkongo, Wycliffe Amkongo, and Abigael Caspa were tasked with organizing the training. They gave us the community’s preferred date for training, for they were very much aware of the community calendar when it comes to planting season and other big events.
Group work during training
Some 14 people attended training, which was lower than expected. This was because of a funeral that ended up being the same day, where most of the community members had gone to assist the bereaved family in sending off their beloved one.
We held training at Mr. Adriano Twiti's homestead under the shade of trees. The participants were jovial and attentive throughout the training session. They gave their opinions, asked questions, and sought clarification on what they did not understand. They were so involved, especially when it came to demonstrations.
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.
During the training, the water committee was elected to oversee and future issues and management of the spring. They were to come up with rules and regulations to govern their spring. Besides that, they were to start income-generating activities to enable them to maintain their spring when minor repairs are needed to be done, understanding that our tea of field officers would be on call for any major problems that might come up.
While covering spring maintenance, we discussed ways to ensure the longevity of the site. This included things like not doing laundry directly at the site since some detergents can wear away the plaster. We also warned against planting certain tree species nearby like eucalyptus which can drastically affect the water table. The topic was made special in that though it is hard to convince community members to cut down those trees, after understanding the threat they posed to the water source they decided to fell 3 eucalyptus trees next to the spring.
Site management training
Hygiene at different levels, such as personal, homestead, and environmental, was another topic that was so interesting. The participants were most involved in this topic because it was full of hands-on demonstrations. These included the 10 steps of proper handwashing with soap, proper toothbrushing, and water treatment. The solar disinfectant method of water treatment - where you heat your water using the sun to a temperature that kills bacteria - was something new to the participants. They welcomed the method and promised to adopt it immediately because it is the most economical method for treatment.
Posing with the new spring
"Indeed, learning can't end," said 37-year-old teacher Mrs. Florence Mbwanga after completing the training with her community.
"I have been teaching for a long period of time, but it is [not until] this day that I learned the proper way of handwashing and toothbrushing. For me, I have been just washing my hands and brushing my teeth without any procedure. Today's training will assist us to change our habit of doing things for good health [in the] long run."
Thank you for making all of this possible!