Please note: original photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Khaunga A area is primarily agricultural with farmers specializing in sugarcane, maize, beans, and local vegetables. Murutu spring is located near the Khaunga Market, with all types of businesses taking place there from a small petrol station to shops, small traders, and fishmongers. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the area is particularly populous with most students having come back home due to the national school closures. Once can see kids assisting their parents with normal chores from digging to fetching water and house chores. Shiloh Church and Khaunga Mosque are also in the vicinity, where people from each institution come to use the spring water.
A normal day for the 490 people who depend on Murutu Spring begins at 6:00 am with fetching water, cooking breakfast, cleaning the compound, and tending to livestock. Then they might do some farming activities, depending on the season. Around 11:00 am, people come home to wash clothes an eating utensils from breakfast. They return to the spring to fetch more water for cooking and sometimes bathing, though most people wait to bathe until nighttime due to a lack of bathing shelters.
After lunch, community members go looking for firewood and maybe shop for groceries at the nearby market. Some go to church for weekly meetings, or to the mosque for weekly or daily worship. By evening, people fetch more water for bathing and cooking before they retire to bed at around 9:00 pm.
So many people and uses depend on the spring water, and yet it is dirty. The area around the spring is slippery with mud as people walk up to and into the spring to fetch water. Heavy rains make this worse, causing people to slip and fall while fetching water.
"The terrain is bad; it affects my legs, and at times I fall. With my old age, I have to walk slowly so that I don't have accidents," said Grace Murutu, a farmer and the landowner of the spring.
In its unprotected state, Murutu Spring is open to contaminants including farm runoff, animal waste, and human contamination from people having to step in it. Community members cite a long list of water-related illnesses associated with consuming the spring water, including Typhoid, Malaria, Bilharia, Amoeba, headaches, and stomachaches.
There is also a lot of time wasted in the act of fetching water. People try to wait between users to allow the water to settle before the next person begins fetching it, and community members have tried to improvise a discharge pipe stuck directly into the ground. But evidently, there is always some dirt mixing in with the water. The wait time leads to crowds, which are especially unwanted during the pandemic.
"The time I spend on the spring would be used for something else as I take a long time since its crowded," said 20-year-old Joel Sawinja, who would prefer to be studying or working than waiting at the spring watching dirt settle.
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.