Please note: original photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muluinga Spring is the main source of drinking water for 280 people in Emusaka, yet it cannot provide clean water. The spring is completely open and vulnerable to contamination. Each time it rains, dirty runoff sends extra soil into the water. Sometimes there is so much extra mud, the community members have to dig it out with a jembe (hoe) so their jugs can dip beneath the surface for fetching.
Community members report frequent cases of diarrhea after drinking this spring water, especially during the rainy season. And with the rains come increased difficulty in accessing the spring.
"Fetching water here especially after it has rained is not easy. The water changes color and becomes dirty. After it rains, also you have to come with a small container to fetch water since the larger one will aid in your quick falling. It makes one use a lot of time to get water," reported 36-year-old farmer Lilian Edogo.
The community installed some logs and stones to try to create a barrier for people to stand on while fetching water without having to stand directly in the pool of water. But the logs become particularly slippery in the frequent rains, and small children are always at risk of falling into the water. Adults will sometimes fall through them too, resulting in sprained ankles and other injuries. For the children, the access point to the spring also poses a threat to their lives.
"People falling in the water always makes it dirty, and when you take dirty water home, we are punished by my mother accusing me of playing while fetching water," said young primary school student Marthan.
The spring needs routine maintenance which includes clearing off the algae on the water's surface, which is time-consuming and a waste of productive energy.
To access the water from this spring , the community members balance on the logs while dipping small bowls, cups, or jugs into the water. They pour the water into the larger containers they brought, typically a few at a time. The process is long, leading to crowds waiting their turn to fetch water. This is especially concerning during the pandemic when community members are trying to avoid groups and limit their time spent in public.
Once the time required to clear the spring of debris and to let the water settle between users is added, fetching water can easily become an hours-long activity throughout the day. This impacts both adults' and children's schedules. Farm work, jobs, cooking, house chores, walking to school, and homework are consistently cut short due to the time lost at the spring, costing everyone in productivity.
If it happens to rain at night, in the morning the spring water will be extra muddied and brown from the effects of the dirty surface runoff. The community members must then allow the water to flow for some time after removing the logs and the stones that help to keep the pool intact. This process in particular is long, tiring, and frustrating. Conflicts among children and adults alike are common due to challenges faced at the spring.
What We Can Do:
Protecting the spring will help provide access to cleaner and safer water and reduce the time people have to spend to fetch it. 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 a task predominantly carried out by women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will, therefore, help empower the female members of the community by freeing up more of their time and energy to engage and invest in income-generating activities and their education.
Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More
To hold trainings during the pandemic, we work closely with both community leaders and the local government to approve small groups to attend training. We ask community leaders to invite a select yet representative group of people to attend training who will then act as ambassadors to the rest of the community to share what they learn. We also communicate our expectations of physical distancing and wearing masks for all who choose to attend.
The training will focus on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits in this community. We will also have a dedicated session on COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention best practices.
With the community’s input, we will identify key leverage points where they can alter their practices at the personal, household, and community levels to affect change. This training will help to ensure participants have the knowledge they need about healthy practices and their importance to make the most of their water point as soon as water is flowing.
Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train community members. Some of these methods include participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation, asset-based community development, group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.
One of the most important issues 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 is consumed. We and the community strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help to unlock the potential for these community members to live better, healthier lives.
We will then conduct a small series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.
Training will result in the formation of a water user committee, elected by their peers, that will oversee the operations and maintenance of the spring. The committee 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 channels. The fence will keep out destructive animals and unwanted waste, and the drainage will keep the area’s mosquito population at a minimum.
At the end of the training, participants will select 5 families that should benefit from new concrete latrine floors called sanitation platforms. Training will inform the community and selected families on what they need to contribute to make this project a success. They must mobilize locally available materials, including bricks, clean sand, and gravel.
The 5 families chosen for sanitation platforms must prepare by sinking a pit for the sanitation platforms to be placed over. Our trainers then instruct them on how to build superstructures over their new platforms. These 5 sanitation platforms will serve as examples for the rest of the community to replicate.
All community members must work together to make sure that they continuously provide accommodations and food for the work teams throughout all stages of spring and sanitation platform construction.