The Mushirongo area is a land with steep terrain. Most houses are semi-permanent, with few permanent houses. The area is vegetated as a majority of the community members are small-scale farmers.
300 people in the Mushirongo area depend on unprotected Eshikhanda Spring for water. But the unprotected spring compromises the water's safety, and it isn't easy to access.
As a result of the cramped, bushy, and slippery access point to the spring, fetching water and moving in and out of the spring are often slow processes. As a result, long queues form at the spring each day, leading to time wastage for those waiting.
The community members prefer fetching water very early in the morning to get to the rest of their day's activities on time. For women, these include work, farming, and domestic chores, including cooking. For children dependent on their mothers to have meals cooked in time for school, delays in their day often mean they are late for school. Sometimes, if the lines are too long during the day, some women feel forced to fetch water late in the evening. This delays them from getting home to prepare for the evening meal; however, the next day, the cycle of waiting and delayed work repeats.
"I waste time queueing here so that I can fetch water. As it is now that it's not protected, I take much time to access it, which compromises my daily activity as a mother," said Gladys Inzofu.
Open to contamination, the spring water is contaminated and hence not safe for drinking. Waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera are frequent among families that depend on this spring, community members say. According to Gladys, children have been complaining of stomachaches due to drinking water from this source, and it is her prayer that the spring is protected so that there will be no such cases among them all.
Drinking contaminated water leads to waterborne and water-related diseases, which are costly for community members to treat. When sick, adults and children alike are robbed of their energy and time for other endeavors.
The makeshift discharge pipe that the community lodged directly into the earth near the spring's water comes to the surface is not very secure. Any disturbance of the land behind the pipe or the pipe itself from animals, hands, or even heavy rains stirs up mud and debris in the water. When this happens, it further slows people down as they wait for the water to clear before they can begin fetching it again.
"The water source is open to contamination, hence making it not safe for me. Sometimes, when I go to fetch and find out that it's not clean, I just come back with an empty container and wait for odd hours when it has settled," said Dennis, a boy who lives in the community.
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 community's female members 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 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 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 forming 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.