How a group of volunteers is fighting infections through cleanliness


Children enjoy their play time in Kibera slums in this picture taken on August 2, 2020.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Every Monday morning, Anne Kabaraka and her team of 12 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) knock on doors within residential areas in Shauriyako informal settlement in Homa Bay town.
The group visits up to 22 residential plots with a mission to make families healthier and to educate them on avoiding huge medical expenses.
Their blue short sleeved coats branded "Afya Yetu Jukumu Letu" (loosely translated as 'our health our responsibility') says alot about the group which is considered as the first level of health in the county.
Their role is to reduce chances of people contracting communicable diseases by ensuring the areas where they live is clean and free from contamination.
According to the department of health, there are at least 2,500 CHVs in Homa Bay.
Some also refer patients to hospitals especially those who have defaulted from taking drugs for diseases such as TB and HIV.
Apart from engaging in public health matters, Ms Kabaraka and her team also help residents dispose of garbage in a proper way that is recommended by environmentalists.

Kick out diseases

This simple task has helped residents of Shauriyako slums kick out diseases.
During their visits, the team collects garbage and takes them to a central collection point within the informal settlement using wheelbarrows before the waste is picked up by county government trucks to the dump site in Arunda in the outskirts of Homa Bay town.
It is activity the CHVs have been doing for at least three months within the slum area after waste disposal became a menace and a threat to the lives of many.
Shauriyako is home to thousands of people who work in the jua kali sector and other informal employment.
Most houses are made out of iron sheets and are built very close together making it difficult to have space where waste can be disposed for recycling.
Solid waste management is one of the greatest challenges affecting the county government of Homa Bay especially in informal settlements like Makongeni and Sophia where proper garbage collection is alien.
There are still no proper mechanisms on how residents can dispose of waste from their houses.

Waste management

County National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) Director Josiah Nyandoro rates waste management in the county at 2 on a ratio of 1:5.
"Waste should be collected at least every day from the collection point. In Homa Bay, I see waste taking up to one week before it is taken to the dump site," he says.
He adds that the county should have more waste collection points.
"The county government owns one vehicle that collects waste which has to move all round Homa Bay town. People contracted to collect waste are also not protected and can easily get injured when working," Mr Nyandoro says.
When renting a house within the slum areas, most landlords have not provided waste disposal facilties for their tenants.
Most people throw away garbage like plastic, leftover food, clothes, diapers and worst of all human waste on roads and within the small compounds where they live.
Children would later play in the same areas where the waste is dumped. Some end up eating what they pick from the ground.
These careless practices predispose children to risks of contracting diarrheal diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Some of these challenges are what prompted the 12 CHVs to come up with a plan to help improve the living standards of the people of Shauriyako.

Sensitising community

Ms Kabaraka, who is the team leader of Arujo D CHVs, together with other volunteers began sensitising the community about proper waste management.
They would talk to tenants about proper ways of ensuring the waste they throw away do not get back to their mouths and into their bodies which can lead to death.
Ms Millicent Boyi and Ms Venah Atieno were among the CHVs who were involved in the exercise.
They walked from door-to-door educating tenants about the benefits of proper waste disposal.
"We started by talking to the community about the benefits of living in a clean environment. We told them to burn waste as a way of reducing its volume and to get rid of dangerous substances that may harmful," Ms Boyi says.
The CHVs group has made milestones through provision of garbage collection bags which are sold at Sh20 to landlords whoembraced their idea of watste management.
Although they are faced by challenges, Ms Kabaraka says they are proud of the change they have brought to residents of Homa Bay town.


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