Friends Of The Old (FOTO)

FOTO supports grandparents living with their grandchildren.



Many people believe that water was blessed from the beginning and therefore causes no disease. This was the sad situation in Lower Nyakach for a long time.

In Lower Nyakach, we have been treating water since 2010 at the FOTO Project. We have been using the PML to test drinking water sources, educate the people on the hazards of drinking untreated water and provide aqua guard (1.2% Sodium Hypochlorite) to treat drinking water at house hold level.

At first it was an uphill task because all the science involved was jargon. The reason being that we are not scientists. The FOTO team comprises of 26 women working in the community. They are women living in the community and some of them cannot read or write. Most of them have basic education and a few have done form four. The level of understanding science is very low. For this reason, they were not very keen to teach the community the science of how water gets contaminated because they also did not understand it well. It took quite a few trainings for them to eventually start even explaining the science to people. The problem was not that it was hard but it was that they believed that science is very difficult.

Prof. Metcalf took a lot of his time taking people through the explanations on the history of germs and how it multiplies and causes disease. He explained how treating water with chlorine kills the germs. We began to understand this. Then how would we know that there is germs in the water? Here is where the PML came in. Prof.Metcalf introduced the Portable Microbiology Laboratory. Here he introduced the Collilert , Petrifilm, sterile pipettes and collecting bags and a long-wavelength ultra-violet light for the colilert test  in a plastic bag to make a Portable Microbiology Laboratory (PML) that could be taken to the field to perform water tests and provide results the next day.

Performing water quality testing using two tests for e coli – Colilert 10ml in a test tube and Petrifilm 1ml. These were then incubated for upto ten hours and the next day the results were ready and very clear.  Colour changes in the colilert tube (using ultra-violet light)  and blue E-coli colonies on the petri film provided evidence that local drinking water sources posed a high disease risk.

The women quickly learnt that it only took understanding the process and then you can present it in whatever language you were most comfortable with. Also, it had to be a language that the community could understand and speak so that they can listen and ask questions and understand and then do what they understood. They realized they could present microbiology in Luo (the local language)as they understood it and the people could understand that and act on it. They could answer all the questions and be the expert when it comes to microbiology! They took it up and started teaching seriously. Before long, people started treating drinking water and refusing to drink untreated water. The village chiefs enrolled the village elders to help with the distribution of aqua guard in the households every month. Before we realized it, the level of water borne diseases had greatly reduced in Lower Nyakach and cases of cholera which were previously rampant in the division had disappeared and Lower Nyakach remained a cholera- free zone because of  FOTO project interventions.

A simple community- based approach to eliminate water borne diseases could be replicated in many parts of the world to bring relief to millions of people who suffer daily from preventable water borne diseases as it has been done to the 70,000 people of Lower Nyakach.

It was a big surprise to the FOTO fraternity in 2019 when we were informed that we won the Water Humanitarian award given by IDDEXX, The Company that makes Colilert.  Because of the Covid 19 pandemic, we were not able to get the award shipped to us until December 2020 when it finally arrived in Lower Nyakach.  We appreciate the fact that while we were working hard to ensure that the people of Lower Nyakach do not suffer water borne disease, IDDEXX was recognizing our efforts and decided that our work was exemplary.  What an Honor!

 FOTO fraternity is happy and very appreciative of such a global Honor. Thank you very much IDDEXX. We will continue to use colilert to help our people and even in other parts of the world. The excitement at FOTO for the Award is beyond words.

We thank IDDEXX for this award and promise to continue working hard. We are most grateful to our donors, IWHA and Prof, Metcalf for his untiring efforts to make sure that we understand microbiology to a point we explain it to the community. He has then continued to supply us with colilert and petrifilm  and ensured we do not run out of supply. He has made us microbiologists and brought relief to the community by eliminating water borne diseases.


1 comment so far

Mark Posted on1:43 am - September 8, 2022

Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.

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