July, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Nickson Sakwa Shivuka
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.
Nickson Sakwa Shivuka is 40 years old and lives in Emukoyani where he depends on Ombalasi Spring for his family's water needs.
Nickson Sakwa Shivuka fetches water from Ombalasi Spring in his home of Emukoyani.
Our team recently visited Emukoyani 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 Nickson shared his story of how the coronavirus has impacted his life.
Nickson stands at the entrance to his homestead to greet Protus.
Area Program Coordinator Protus Ekesa met Nickson outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Protus and Nickson observed social distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety.
"Mr. Sakwa, being an environmental researcher, is currently at home without work since the outbreak of this COVID-19 pandemic. Life has become hard for him since footing his bills has become a challenge," reflected Protus after the interview.
Nickson stands for a portrait outside his home.
"Yet, Mr. Sakwa is so encouraged because he has observed the community members adhering to the directives given by the Ministry of Health. He is so hopeful that soon things will come to normal."
The following is Nickson's story, in his own words.
Nickson shared his appreciation for our team's visit during the first COVID-19 sensitization training we held in his village earlier this year.
"The time we used to fetch water has drastically reduced since the protection of Ombalasi Spring. We no longer need to wait for the water to settle down before the next person fetches as it used to be. We now have access to quality water. The water is now clean and also safe.
The protected spring has helped me during the pandemic in the washing of hands, as it requires clean water and soap. This has helped me in an economic aspect since I do not need to buy water for use. The children are at home and they use a lot of water; if I had no access to this clean water, I would have been forced to be purchasing it which is so costly.
People maintain some distance while waiting in line at the spring to fetch water.
Fetching water during the pandemic has changed in the following ways. I am now forced to wash my hands before fetching water. I am not supposed to touch the pipe. I am forced to keep social distance at the spring. This is unlike in the past where I would just fetch water without observing all these restrictions.
Nickson and his family outside their home.
COVID-19 has impacted my family negatively since the education system collapsed, so children are home. On a normal day with no COVID-19 , the children would have been free to move, visit their relations, but this is not possible since the outbreak of the disease. Children are not able to mingle with others due to the fear of this particular outbreak. It's very difficult to identify the children's talents when they are not mingling with others.
Nickson enjoying a light moment with his 2 sons.
My social life has been affected too. I am not free to visit my relations or have my relations to come visiting because of the fear of the pandemic.
My job has been affected and I am not working at the moment as I used to do my research mostly in institutions of higher learning. Wearing the mask has become a challenge for me since it's something that has just come up and I am not feeling comfortable with it."
Nickson checks on his kitchen garden grown with water from Ombalasi Spring.
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"We are wearing face masks, handwashing with soap, social distancing, and reducing social visits and social gatherings."
Nickson puts on his face mask.
When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Nickson listed the radio, television, newspaper, word of mouth, other non-governmental organization's (NGO) training, and our team's sensitization training.
Nickson scrubs his hands with soap then rinses them off using a leaky tin handwashing station he made at home and filled with water from Ombalasi Spring.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"The information on washing hands with clean running water and soap, installation of a handwashing station at the water point, weearing and making of face masks, and keeping social and physical distance."
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Emukoyani Community, Ombalasi 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.
Staff demonstrate social distancing and wearing masks at training
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 Emukoyani, Kenya.
Team Leader Emmah heads training
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.
A man sharing his thanks for the team's visit to share information about COVID-19
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.
Trainer Protus installs the new leaky tin at the spring
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.
Trainer Protus demonstrates handwashing
During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point. 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 little girl demonstrates handwashing
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.
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.
May, 2019: Emukoyani Community, Ombalasi Spring Project Complete
Emukoyani Community is celebrating its new protected spring, so celebrate with them! Ombalasi Spring has been transformed into a flowing, safe 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.
Construction at Ombalasi Spring was successful and water is now flowing from the discharge pipe.
"We are going to use this water for drinking and also start up a fish pond downstream. The money gotten from the fish pond can be used to maintain the spring," said Mr. Andala.
"This water will reduce the distance of looking for drinking water across the road."
Water from Ombalasi Spring was dirty before this spring protection, and community members would often come down with waterborne illnesses.
"Thank you so much for protecting this spring for us. We suffered a lot due to drawing water from the unprotected spring, but we will now have safe and clean drinking water," said Rose, a water user.
The community is located near the busy Shikoti-Kakamega Road, and people would often cross this road in search of clean drinking water. But since Ombalasi Spring has been protected, the community can stay on the right side of the road and use Ombalasi Spring to meet all of their water needs.
The village elder in this community happens to be what the others consider an "old mama," meaning she is 56 years of age and very sharp. She promised to ensure she solves any conflicts that may arise concerning water and that everyone follows the rules for fetching water at Ombalasi Spring.
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, e.g bricks, clean sand, wheelbarrows of ballast, and gravel. Some even made extra efforts to work alongside the artisan after delivering all of the materials. Community members also hosted our artisans for the duration of construction.
The spring area was excavated with jembes, hoes, and spades to create space for setting the foundation of polyethylene, wire mesh, and concrete.
Community members came to the site and helped the artisan excavate the area in preparation of spring protection construction
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.
The ceramic tiles installed under the discharge pipe protect the concrete from the erosive force of the falling water and beautify 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.
Finishing up a coat of plaster over the brick walls and foundation of the spring
The concrete dried over the course of five days, during which a community member wetted the concrete to make sure it would dry without cracking. The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a polyethylene membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination.
After the backfilling was done at the reservoir area, the community members were already waiting and ready with poles and nails to help the artisan fence in the area.
A fence that marks off the protected area from the spring eye to the discharge pipe
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 will continue to encourage them to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors as we visit for monitoring and evaluation.
A proud community member stands by her new sanitation platform as it finished drying
We informed our contact person, Bornface, of the importance of hygiene and sanitation training. We came to an agreement on the most convenient date for the community, and then Bornface went door to door to invite everyone he knows who uses Ombalasi Spring.
We met at a home near the spring and were happy to find some tree shade to shield us from the hot sun. All of the participants were eager to learn. They participated by asking a lot of questions about every topic.
Participants learned about:
– Leadership and governance for the spring committee
– Management and maintenance of the spring
– Family planning
– Environmental hygiene
– Personal hygiene, including handwashing
The participants were eager to know where they go wrong when it comes to personal hygiene. The instructor took them through personal hygiene, how to handle food, how to keep their surroundings clean, and many other things.
The trainer taught participants how to build a tippy tap handwashing station out of all local materials, which is a new concept that everyone was eager to implement in their own homes.
– Dental hygiene
– Waterborne and water-related disease, along with water treatment methods
Most of the topics were covered starting with a brainstorm session. Community members would break into groups and brainstorm water pollutants, for example. The trainer could then They also learned that water is often polluted during the journey home because it is not handled or stored properly.
The people at training look forward to sharing what they learned with their families, neighbors, and other people who use Ombalasi Spring. They now have the knowledge they need to keep their water clean from the time it's fetched up to when it's consumed.
Thank You for making all of this possible!
February, 2019: Emukoyani Community, Ombalasi Spring Project Underway
Dirty water from Ombalasi Spring is making people in Emukoyani Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to build 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 with news of success!