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Unexpected miracles!

The Kuwesa Project was begun in Western Kenya with the goal of economically assisting HIV+ widows. The staff observed the prevalence and pattern of infectious diseases in this population and provided. Bio sand filters convert clear water into safe drinking water. The filters were provided near the widows’ homes and became available to other nearby households also. 

One village, Maganda, had older more discrete women in the Project and the identities of the HIV+ members were Unknown. This led to the entire village being provided with Bio sand filters from 2014 to 2015. The unexpected result was that young children were not dying from infectious diseases. (In Kenya a child born alive has a 15% chance of dying before his or her fifth birthday.) Approximately one half of these children die when they are between the ages of two and five when they start to venture beyond their homes. The sudden drop in deaths from infectious diseases was a loud signal in the pilot village making it obvious   that easily available safe water was critical for reducing the mortality of this age group. It also helped that the mortality rates of children in this age group were kept by the Community Health Workers, the volunteers who keep all of the mortality figures in Vihiga County, and who cannot be praised enough.  Recognizing the role of unsafe water in the deaths in the 2–5-year-olds has led to an expansion of the Kuwesa Project to complete the requirements for safe Water.

First, all water must be clear prior to any form of treatment to make it safe. In Western Kenya, most Water comes from clear springs which drain off to scum covered ponds. To capture the clear spring Water, spring protections are built by capturing the water at its source and directing it to a steel pipe accessed by a three-step entry.  Women, no longer had to kneel and scoop out water from the pond.

Previously, pond water then had to be “settled” for three to five days resulting in more labor for women, not to mention carrying the wasted portion up from deep ravines.  The advantage of using Bio sand filters tor the purification process is clear as it uses no heat or chemicals, both of which have their drawbacks. Bio sand filters are estimated to last for 30 or more years. Currently, Kuwesa uses the existence of a newly protected spring as the starting point for each village’s water purification, providing filters for the village which utilized water from that spring. 

The Kuwesa Project also supplies free t-shirts to the 2-5 year olds in each village/ The shirts say, “Safe Water, Every day , Every time, Yeh!” , in the local Luhya language. This serves as a reminder to adults to provide the children with safe drinking water, a message repeated by the Community Health Workers.

Vihiga County, where the Kuwesa Project is located was chosen as a site for the large study of the new Malaria vaccine. Children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years receive three doses. It had been proven successful in reducing Malaria infections in children under two years of age. The World Health Organization has now approved this vaccine for children in sub-Saharan Africa. Why the fuss over Malaria which has been around from ancient times?  The African Malaria organism (falciparum), as opposed to the Asiatic version, goes straight to the brain causing coma, and death. While in the brain it causes cognitive damage and loss of memory. It is not a parasite one would like to see in an infant, or anyone else, for that matter.  Malaria is spread by Mosquito bites to­­ an infected person or animal. The infected mosquito, which acquires the infection by biting an infected animal or human, then spreads it to humans by biting. By developing resistance through vaccines, in humans, opportunities for mosquitos to get infected are reduced, giving humanity one more tool in the continuing ­­­fight against Malaria.

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