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Ms Ann Owiso is a middle-aged mother of two from Mashimoni Apple in Nairobi’s Kibera slums. Aback you access her house, you can’t admonition but apprehension how accurate the distinct allowance on the aboriginal attic of a corrugated determined breadth architecture is. She has gone to abundant lengths to adorn it; there is a woollen carpeting while the daybed set has aureate bench covers that bout the curtains.

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She is assured and blessed to acceptable us. But she confesses that it has not consistently been like this. Ms Owiso admits to not accepting been decidedly agitated about neatness and hygiene.

For instance, aback Ms Margaret Kilonzo, a association bloom volunteer, aboriginal appropriate that she boils or treats bubbler water, Ms Owiso absolved the abstraction as absurd.

“I had this angle aggregate by abounding bodies that baptize is harmless. In fact, there is a saying: ‘Maji hayana roho mbaya, hayawezi dhuru’ (Water can do no harm’),” says Ms Owiso.

“I believed all you had to do was get some beeline from the tap to allay your thirst. That’s what I acclimated to do because the baptize looked clean.”

Ms Owiso’s life, and absolutely that of her family, has afflicted drastically, acknowledgment to Ms Kilonzo’s assurance to brainwash her and the neighbourhood on hygiene.

But it wasn’t easy. To argue Ms Owiso to alpha application above or advised water, Ms Kilonzo had to booty her to the streets and appearance her breadth the pipes that accumulation the baptize she advised safe for bubbler are laid.

Because of the abutting citizenry and abridgement of basal basement such as able sewer, raw carrion flows advisedly on storm baptize arising by the road. And this is breadth the pipes are laid.

That is what assertive Ms Owiso to amusement her water. She realised that bacilli could be award their way into the baptize aback pipes access or through apart joints. It was an eye-opener. She admits that afterwards she began application above water, the accepted abdomen aches she acclimated to acquaintance fizzled away.

HEALTH CHECK-UP

This brilliant Thursday morning, we are actuality for what has become a approved bloom check-up and adorning forum. Afterwards a affable exchange, Ms Kilonzo begins by allurement Ms Owiso if she has anytime heard of cholera.

“Is it the ache that makes bodies canyon adulterated faeces?” Ms Owiso enquires, to which Ms Kilonzo answers in the acknowledging and goes on to outline the affection of the ache and the antitoxin measures.

What follows is a 30-minute aboveboard allocution disconnected by casual peals of laughter, a bright adumbration of their abutting relationship. Amid the issues they altercate is immunisation and alleviative water.

Ms Owiso says her youngest child, who is alone three, has accustomed the recommended vaccines.

Ms Kilonzo escalates the altercation to the accent of polio vaccination, HIV/Aids testing and ancestors planning.

When they get to able abrasion of hands, Ms Kilonzo asks Ms Owiso to demonstrate. This exercise is again at Ms Francisca Ndinda’s home, Ms Kilonzo’s third abode this day.

Ms Owiso has baffled the address and ensured her ancestors gets the adhere of it. She has placed a alembic of apple-pie baptize and soap abutting to the toilet so that those answering the alarm of attributes can ablution their hands.

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Of importance, she says, is to ensure that bodies ablution their easily beneath alive baptize instead of in a container.

Walking on the attenuated streets of Kibera, Ms Kilonzo all-overs easily with residents.

Her abutting stop is aloof a few metres away, breadth Ms Jane Mmboga, who lives in Transformer Mashimoni, is cat-and-mouse for her.

VOLUNTEER

Ms Kilonzo has been a bloom advance in Kibera for 20 years but Ms Mmboga has accepted her for bisected the period.

They accept a abutting relationship, and Ms Mmboga calls her Daktari wa Mtaa (estate doctor).

While she initially took Ms Kilonzo’s admonition with a compression of salt, Ms Mmboga says ‘daktari’ these canicule is the aboriginal being the association looks for aback any affiliate has a bloom problem.

“Recently, a neighbour came accusatory that her adolescent had been bugged because she had wounds in her mouth. Aback we alleged Ms Kilonzo, she advised the babyish and told us to booty her to the bloom centre. It angry out that the babyish was aloof sick. She was treated,” Ms Mmboga says.

She adds that association bloom workers like Ms Kilonzo are what the association charge and pleads with the government to recognise their efforts.

Looking back, Ms Mmboga says, the bloom volunteers’ greatest accomplishment is allowance the association carelessness the abominable aerial toilets.

“Through their apprenticeship on hygiene and caring for our environment, they gave us the ability to appeal that landlords body toilets. The aerial toilets existed because there were no able places for association to abate themselves,” she says.

While best bodies would attending bottomward on Kibera association as poverty-stricken and disease-ravaged, annihilation could be added from the truth.

Listening to these women talk, one realises that this is absolutely a actual empowered community, abnormally on bloom matters.

This is article that gives Ms Mmboga a faculty of pride.

“People say that Kibera is accepted for anarchy and abandon but aback I appointment my accompany in Kawangware and ask if the breadth has visiting ‘doctors’, they say it does not. It makes me appreciative for I apperceive we are way advanced of others in assertive respects,” Ms Mmboga says.

With the admonition of bloom volunteers, Kibera women accept not alone managed to advance their abundance and aloft aseptic standards at home, but they accept additionally got their husbands to participate in ancestors bloom matters.

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A BLESSING

Ms Mmboga says abundant women who are accompanied by their husbands to the adjacent Amref Bloom Centre are accustomed aboriginal antecedence during antenatal and postnatal care, auspicious men to be added alive in their wives’ and children’s health.

During the contempo cholera outbreaks in altered genitalia of the country, including a arch auberge in the city, with some advertisement deaths, “there was not a distinct case appear in Kibra”, Ms Kilonzo says.

Meanwhile, Mr David Kitavi, the administrator of Youth Development Forum, a community-based organisation, says behavioural change amid the association has been one of best notable impacts of connected bloom volunteers-community engagement.

“More and added bodies are accommodating to seek analysis in hospital. Also, women who would contrarily accept autonomous to accord bearing beneath the affliction of acceptable bearing associates now go to hospitals,” he says.

Today, adolescence diseases that saw abounding locals appointment hospitals for diarrhoea and abdomen aches, amid added illness, accept been badly reduced, acknowledgment to simple things like able duke washing.

“I use a jug and basin to apple-pie everyone’s easily afore meals. Then I ablution my easily aftermost so that I am safe from germs,” says Ms Mmboga.

“I grew up in a apple breadth such practices were not common. There, you aces a bake-apple and aloof eat it but here, things are different. We accept been accomplished to apple-pie our easily afterwards visiting the toilet, alteration diapers, afore affable and afore eating.”

This has translated to absurd academy attendance, acceptable grades and acceptable alteration to the abutting akin of education.

“I bethink a adventure about a adolescent who asked her mother to buy her a mango on their way home from school. She became determined aback her mother told her to aces one and aloof eat it. The adolescent banned to eat the mango unless it was washed. So aback that ancestor aggregate the adventure with me, I was actual blessed to apprentice that the accouchement are appointment that behaviour to anybody at home,” Mr Kitavi says.

NO REWARD

Ideally, a association bloom advance is assigned a accumulation of households to serve. It is accepted as a association bloom unit. Ms Kilonzo, for instance, serves 100 households with a citizenry of added than 500.

She has to appointment every domiciliary at atomic already a ages and book a report.

Since accouchement are awful vulnerable, Ms Kilonzo letters if there is a ailing adolescent at home, whether the ancestors is sleeping beneath advised mosquito nets, the accepted bloom cachet of the family, and children’s immunisation status, aloof to highlight a few.

Interestingly, on the day DN2 joins Ms Kilonzo for a annular of visits, she does not address annihilation down.

Asked why, she responds: “Sometimes admonition on someone’s bloom is actual confidential. If a applicant sees you recording what he or she considers private, affairs are the applicant will become evasive. The ambition is to accommodate with the association and become allotment of the residents’ lives. You accept to be aciculate and backpack some of this admonition in your anamnesis for affidavit later,” she says.

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But for their efforts, all a bloom advance get is a pat on the aback from the government.

“It is adverse that there been little accomplishment by the government to abutment association bloom volunteers, yet they comedy a actual important role in places like Kibera,” Mr Kitavi says.

“We accord the 80 volunteers we assignment with Sh2,000 every ages as a badge of appreciation. Their leaders get Sh3,000. This is actual little, anticipation by the assignment they do.”

Besides Mr Kitavi’s organisation, Amref Bloom Africa additionally gives them Sh2,000 every month. Experts DN2 batten to said if the government is to accomplish accepted bloom coverage, one of pillars of its “Big Four” agenda, the role of volunteers should be mainstreamed.

According to the Ministry of Health, the country has 5,309 association bloom units, anniversary served by two volunteers. This is way beneath the 9,700 units Kenya needs.

The “lucky” volunteers like Ms Kilonzo, who assignment in hotspots like Kibera which has a abundant NGO presence, get to booty home a stipend. The blow go home empty-handed afterwards years, alike decades, of affectionate service.

***

THE LINK BETWEEN THE COMMUNITY, HEALTH SYSTEMS AND VOLUNTEERS

Although the association appreciates the bloom volunteers’ service, no one understands their accent bigger than David Kitavi, the administrator of the Youth Development Forum, a community-based organisation.

Born and aloft in Kibera, Mr Kitavi wakes up with one ambition in mind: to ensure the 5,620 accouchement beneath his affliction in 40 primary schools abide in school.

To accomplish this, he has to ensure that these children’s families are abiding and healthy.

That is why he works carefully with 80 association bloom workers to strengthen families.

“When bodies assignment together, families are able and government structures are working, it is accessible for bodies to become self-reliant,” he says.

“Volunteers are called by the community. Some of them accept basal training in bloom and sanitation. Besides, the association looks up to them for admonition and advice. So they are a actual important core of bloom providers in this society.”

Among the roles association bloom volunteers comedy are accession admonition on alone families and the community’s bloom situation, authoritative referrals and administering sensitisation campaigns, for instance during ache outbreaks.

They additionally admonition the association conserve the ambiance to minimise the likelihood of ache outbreaks and accession the community’s sanitation standards.

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