By: Mary Okello,
Action Against Hunger, Kenya
In Kenya, Action Against Hunger is helping communities displaced by deadly flooding
When mudslides and heavy rainfall struck the area of Chesegon Center in West Pokot County, Kenya, in April, dozens of people were killed, 2,000 were displaced, and many more lost their livelihoods.
Floods happen quickly, but for families who lost everything, recovery after disaster takes months, even years. Action Against Hunger’s teams in West Pokot were there every step of the way to help, even after the waters receded.
With support from the Fields Foundation, Action Against Hunger quickly launched an emergency response to help the neediest families. Our teams distributed crucial supplies, provided lifesaving nutrition services, and promoted healthy hygiene to prevent the spread of disease.
We also installed new handwashing stations and provided primary health services. Additionally, we continue to train and support health volunteers in West Pokot, who work each day to improve hygiene, nutrition, and health in their communities.
HELPING THOSE DISPLACED BY FLOODING
Eveline Kutoyi, a 40-year-old woman, barely survived the floods. The raging waters – which carried rocks and logs in the torrent – swept her miles away from Chesegon Center, leaving her with bruises and a broken leg.
She recovered from her injuries, but after being discharged from the hospital, Eveline realized she had lost everything, including her farm. While thankful that her life had been spared, she could not escape the pain of her loss and the uncertainty of how to start her life over.
“I felt like all the wounds on my body were open, I was heartbroken, and my life was frozen,” she remembers.
Eveline and her four children found refuge with another family, who offered to host them for two months – but life was not the same again. They would sleep on rags, recycle clothing, share plates during meals, and share basic items like soap and even bathe without it when they ran out.
In June, Eveline received a jerrican, mattress, bucket, laundry detergent, soap, a dignity kit with feminine hygiene supplies, and a kitchen set from Action Against Hunger and the Field Foundation. To Eveline, they were “life changers.”
“I did not have money to buy soap or [cooking pots] of high quality like the ones I received," says Eveline. "We used to sleep on rags during the cold nights, but life changed when we received mattresses. I’m so grateful to Action Against Hunger for restoring our dignity back.”
IMPROVING HYGIENE & SANITATION
When the floods hit Chesegon Center, families lost their homes and access to clean water, hygiene supplies, and safe sanitation, as well as health and nutrition services. Living in displacement camps, the most vulnerable populations faced a higher risk of diarrhea, malaria, respiratory infections, and malnutrition.
To prevent the spread of disease among the displaced, Action Against Hunger worked with community health volunteers (CHVs) to spread the word about good hygiene practices, healthy child care and feeding, and COVID-19 preventive measures. The CHVs also helped with active case finding.
Faith Chesuko, who has been working as a CHV for more than three years, found the trainings on handwashing and hygiene very effective. She understood her responsibility to practice what she had learned and pass it on to her community. In her own home, she installed a homemade “tippy tap” for handwashing, a dish rack, and kept everything swept and clean.
All of these changes were the result of her training. “Initially, the only times I thought it was important to wash my hands were before and after eating but now I understand that there are other critical times for handwashing,” she says.
Faith enjoys her role as community educator: she visits homes, spreads the word, and feels motivated by her neighbors’ trust and willingness to change. With her encouragement, hygiene and sanitation practices are improving. Throughout the village, improvised handwashing stations, compost pits, dish racks, and latrines built with local materials started appearing.
“The lives of the community members have not been the same since I started teaching them. They now understand the importance of handwashing, the need to have a toilet and the importance of clean and safe water,” says Faith.
Before her visits, community members would drink water directly from rivers and streams, without treating it. Many families did not have latrines or toilets in their homes and used the forests and fields instead – resulting in contaminated water and sickness.
Now, according to Faith’s records, diarrhea has significantly decreased. Before, she treated or referred as many as 20 diarrhea cases in a month, but she’s had just six cases in the last two months.
“I am so grateful for the training I received from Action Against Hunger,” says Faith. “It has given me the confidence to walk into houses and share the knowledge. I am excited to save the lives of my community.”