"Drawing water from the unprotected spring has been so difficult and tiresome. My family has contracted waterborne and water-related diseases which have caused massive use of resources to cater to their medications," said Mary Wesaya, a 40-year-old farmer and mother in Lunyinya.
"Accessing water from the unprotected spring has really affected my health. Most of the time I have had stomach problems and diarrhea. This has resulted in continuous absenteeism from school resulting in poor performance," said young teenager Ivy.
Mary and Ivy are just 2 of the 210 people living in Lunyinya who depend on unprotected John Wesaya Spring for water. Their accounts of how the contaminated spring water negatively impacts their lives are, unfortunately, not unique within the community. The spring's dirty water drives cases of typhoid and diarrhea, costing families their health, energy, time for productive activities, and financial resources.
Fetching water at the spring is not easy. The water forms a large open pool where it comes to the earth's surface. Community members laid a small log and some stones at the water's edge where they try to balance while fetching water. The narrow access point is constantly wet and very slippery. Falling into the water while trying to fetch it, especially among children, is not unheard of.
To fetch water, community members rely on submerging their jerrycans or scooping the pooled water with bowls and small jugs to pour into their jerrycans. However they manage it, fetching water is always a time-consuming and tiring process. If they fetch too quickly or if too many people fetch in a row, the algae, rotten leaves, and muck at the bottom of the pooled water get stirred up into the water. When this happens, people have to wait for the water to settle before they can begin fetching it again.
Many women try to be at the spring at dawn to be the first of the day, hoping to fetch the cleanest water possible and avoid the crowds. As one of the only year-round water sources in the area, however, crowds gather during the dry season when other communities' water sources dry up. This slows people down even more, costing them in the rest of their day's planned activities and work.
The Lunyinya area is full of sugarcane and sweet potato plantations, both grown as cash crops. The community is well-known for its residents' peace and unity.
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.