Western Kenya WaSH Program
Community members living in Shitoto fetch their water from Abraham Spring. The water is visibly contaminated, a fact confirmed from the constant reports of waterborne disease. The open nature of the spring makes the water vulnerable to surface runoff, erosion, and animal and human activities.
Mr. Abraham Anina, the owner of the land the spring runs through, met us there to give us a tour. He said, “Health conditions and services in our community are impaired. We observe a huge number of ailing community members almost every week. Cases of malaria, typhoid, stomachaches, skin diseases and diarrhea, especially in kinds under the age of five, are very common in these households.” A sick workforce has resulted in underdevelopment here.
This project is a part of our shared program with Western Water and Sanitation Forum (WEWASAFO). Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
We crossed paths with Miriam on the day of our assessment. A timid, pale and seemingly fatigued middle-aged women, she was walking bare-foot, covered in dirt, and wearing torn clothes. She carried a crying toddler on her back, all the while balancing a basin full of clothes on her head and carrying a jerrycan. She told us of her life as she arrived at the unprotected spring.
Miriam starts her day every morning at 6AM by fetching water. Upon completion of her morning chores, she prepares food for her family, with her children getting ready for school. After breakfast, her husband heads for the farm where he makes bricks and maintains a small sugarcane crop. Daily revenue comes through the sale of milk from their cattle. Sometimes, Miriam has to make multiple trips to get water throughout the day.
A person’s socioeconomic status is measured by the size of their farm and the number of animals they own. In addition to daily chores and multiple trips to fetch water, community members go to markets in hopes of selling the products from their farms. Miriam’s story is common among the members of this community.
The community water source is an unprotected spring. 20-liter lidless containers are used for fetching water. Leaves or banana stalk are sometimes used as improvised lids. Most people do not clean their containers, and those who do use sand or leaves as cleaning agents. At home, water is stored in a bigger container. The relatively well-to-do community members store their water in 100-liter plastic containers at home. The rest of the community stores its water in clay-baked pots.
The current water source is contaminated due to surface runoff, soil erosion, and the prominence of open defecation in the surrounding area. While there is no systemic method of water treatment, a small number of people boils their water before consumption. In rural Kenya, almost 50 percent of the population lacks access to a safe drinking water source. This contributes to the low life expectancy in the country, which now stands at 64 years.
Sanitation is not a priority among the general population. Only a quarter of the population have latrines, which are predominately pit latrines. The community latrines are generally un-durable due to mud and wood based construction. Fear of structural collapse while in the midst of latrine usage disincentives people from using the latrines. This, in addition to limited availability of latrines overall, results in prevalence of open defecation. (Editors Note: Open defecation — the practice of disposing human feces in the fields, forests, bushes, and open bodies of water —is an issue the community is facing). This adversely affects sanitation and degrades overall community health. Less than 25 percent of the population has access to bathing facilities at home, resulting in baths at the contaminated spring. Contaminated water usage results in prominence of waterborne disease among the population. Children under the age of five are especially vulnerable, routinely being infected with diseases like typhoid, diarrhea, and malaria. Due to the prevailing negative attitude towards sanitation and hygiene, education and advocacy on its necessity is imperative.
Community members will attend hygiene and sanitation training for at least three days. This training will ensure participants are no longer ignorant about healthy practices and their importance. The facilitator plans to use PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation), CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation), ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development), group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.
Training will also result in the formation of a committee that will oversee operations and maintenance at the spring. They 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.
On the final day of training, participants will select five families that should benefit from new latrines.
Training will also inform the community and selected families on what they need to contribute to make this project a success. They must mobilize locally available materials, such as bricks, clean sand, hardcore, and ballast. The five families must prepare by sinking a pit for the sanitation platforms to be placed over. All community members must work together to make sure that accommodations and food are always provided for the work teams.
Fetching water is predominantly a female role, done by both women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will therefore help empower the female members of the community by giving them more time and efforts to engage and invest in income-generating activities.
In addition, protecting the spring will ensure that the water is safe, adequate and secure. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water. Shitoto Community is ready and willing to do everything they can to make this project a success.
Western Water and Sanitation Forum (WEWASAFO) works together with less privileged and marginalized members of communities in Western Kenya to reduce poverty through harnessing and utilization of local resources for sustainable development.