Handwashing Project Update

THI had planned to establish sanitation facilitates in Kanjoo once a water borehole was up and running. However, in the last month, the Covid-19 pandemic has driven this project to the forefront. There is an immediate need for provisions and for education on hand washing to protect the community from the virus. We cannot wait for the borehole to be completed.

Our team has risen to the challenge and in just 3 weeks, the new hand washing project is ready for delivery. Our Project Officer highlighted the homes in the village that are the most vulnerable. In Kanjoo, a home is a collection of households and in order to reach more people, THI has decided to set up water containers, soap and hand towels to 125 homes which would serve many more households. Collecting the data and creating a map of these homes has been challenging as it is now the rainy season in Meru County and moving around the community though heavy mud and rains is not easy.

The majority of households in Kanjoo do not have access to running water or soap, so the team’s first task was to locate significant quantities of large water dispensers. 20L oil containers have been upcycled and adapted with metal taps, rather than plastic ones, for longevity. These have been sprayed with the hummingbird logo, using a template handmade by our Project Manager, to be stored whilst soap and hand towels have been located and bought.

By purchasing supplies from local businesses and markets and by employing locals to help with the logistics and preparation of equipment, THI has also indirectly been helping stimulate local economies that are already suffering due to the pandemic. Local men even drained the last bits of oil from our containers to take home and use with their families.

While this may sound like a simple resource-implementing project, the logistics are proving testing. The rains and flooding have meant that transporting the resources to Kanjoo on muddy unfinished roads has been incredibly difficult. The first vehicle suffered a breaking failure, so the team had to locate a new vehicle and transfer the resources. They have had to abandon the vehicle, walking for over an hour in heavy rains and mud to the nearest town to ask for help in manoeuvring the truck back onto the road. On arrival whilst unloading, it was noticed that one container had gone missing. Although only one, this reduces at least 3 households’ access to a hand washing station. This is disappointing but not surprising due to the challenges of the journey.

There is a lack of sanitation education amongst the community, so over 125 laminated posters on the 7 stages of hand washing have been created to display on the water containers and a carefully crafted education programme has been prepared. The team will hold workshops this week to help inform best practice, while performing crucial social distancing.

The global advice to stay home is increasingly difficult for those living on hand-to-mouth incomes. As one person told our Project Manager, “I’d rather die from Corona than from hunger”. This creates a very complex situation where people feel staying home is not an option therefore the simple act of hand washing becomes even more important.