In Muting'ong'o, the 300 community members have a daily routine. They wake up as early as 5:30 in the morning to fetch water for drinking, because that is the only time they can be sure the water is clean and not contaminated.
Lining up at the spring is an everyday occurrence. Some people use a scooping jug to fetch water, while others fetch water directly from the spring using jerrycans. This has caused conflict because some believe others' containers are dirty.
After that, the adults in the community go about their work, which in Mutin'ong'o is commonly farming, working for the local sugarcane company, or selling produce roadside.
Then, later in the day, they come back and fetch water for other uses, once again braving the steep hill that leads from the village to the spring.
They adhere to this regimen in the hopes of avoiding contamination - but they still get sick. Both the young and the old in this community often experience typhoid.
The community members are consuming water that they know is not safe, but they don't have a choice. Young children are affected most because they cough a lot. This has made parents spend a lot of money at hospitals instead of using the money to support their families.
Mrs. Mary Burudi, a local farmer shown collecting water at the spring above knows this routine all too well. "We have suffered for a long time because of waterborne diseases. The water is always dirty because the spring is open. People queue for a long time because they take their time not to make water at the source dirty."
People aren't the only source of water contamination: the waterpoint is commonly accessed by local wildlife. And, it is right next to a farm, whose fertilizer is likely integrated into the runoff that enters the spring whenever it rains.
Rain also makes the surrounding terrain slippery, which makes filling a jerrycan even more difficult: something 8-year-old Allan experiences every day.
"Fetching water from the spring is very risky," Allan (shown above) said, "because we as children can easily fall inside the spring which can lead to injuries and risking our lives. Protecting the spring will guarantee us children our safety and we will be sure that we will take clean water back home."
Protecting the spring will mean a lot to them and their lives will change for the better.
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.