"'Ever since my brother drank this water and cost our family an entire earning from the sale of our maize to treat him of typhoid - and by the way he writhed in agony during the period - I became very wary and learned from him. My family took a really long time to recover. However, my children and my neighbors do not know what my brother and our family went through, so when I heard what your organization does, I knew you could save someone."
This was 61-year-old Moses Sunguti recounting his family's fraught dependence on Moro Spring. Moses is 1 of 200 people in the Kalenda A Community who use this spring for water. Though Moro Spring's water is highly contaminated in its current state, it is the closest and most dependable water source these community members have.
Several sources contaminate the spring water. Located under banana stalks, the spring is quite literally covered in leaves, and one can spot a few bird droppings in the water, just like the frogs and toads jumping in and out of it. Runoff from the rains carries farm chemicals, soil, and more animal waste directly into the water. Green algae, insects, and bacteria grow in the water, and rotting leaves and other debris line the bottom of the small pool.
The way community members must fetch water further contaminates the water. That is partly why community members have to fetch water in turns, to be sure they do not stir up mud from the bottom of the pool. People here consider early morning, and late evening the best times one is most likely to fetch the cleanest water of the day. This means that women's daily routines have to start very early each morning to accommodate enough trips to the water point for their daily needs. Most people try to avoid fetching water in the middle of the day when the snakes that live in the spring vegetation come out to sun themselves. It is especially too dangerous to send children then.
To fetch water, people must submerge their entire containers into the pooled water, adding whatever dirt and bacteria on the jerrycans and their hands into the water. While people try to stand on some slippery moss-covered rocks at the water point, sometimes their feet and shoes slip into the water as well.
Community members report that using Moro Spring's contaminated water has led to numerous water-related illnesses, including typhoid like Moses' brother had, or diarrhea. There is also a high malaria rate among families that use this spring due to the large amount of standing water at the spring, which lends itself as a prime breeding ground to mosquitoes that carry the disease. Some of the particular insects and animals that live in the spring water have also led to livestock death that drinks this water, which is a big financial loss to families.
When people get sick, they spend a lot of money paying for medication and hospital visits. Adults miss out on key productive and wage-earning hours, and kids have to stay home from school, falling behind in their studies.
"I had diarrhea once after consuming this water, and it cost me a few days from school...my father had warned us of drinking water that has come directly from the spring," said primary school-aged student Samuel.
This is a tiny and tightly knit community; everyone knows everyone, community members said. Failure to recognize others while out would raise eyebrows, and that is how community members here take care of each other and keep each other in the loop of what is happening within the community. That is also, in part, why this community is more than ready to help protect Moro Spring. At the time of our visit, they had already banded together to collect the local materials needed for construction and bring them to the spring. One man, Titus, had also already begun to break stones into gravel by hand. They wanted to be sure they were ready for construction work as soon as possible, they said, so they began gathering materials as soon as Moro Spring passed our vetting standards for protection.
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. Therefore, protecting the spring and offering training and support will 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 training 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, which 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 to alter their practices at the personal, household, and community levels to affect change. This training will help ensure participants have the knowledge they need about healthy practices and their importance to make the most of their water points as soon as the 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 handling, storing, and treating water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. The community and we 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 training 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 spring's operations and maintenance. 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.