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New CSDW Partner SOTENI and AIDS Barefoot Doctors in Kenya

Soteni drinking 2Today I’m in a familiar place in Siaya District near Kisumu Kenya. Our P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) Program has been working in this area since 2003 and I’ve visited our various partners in the area many times. However, today I’m with one of our newest CSDW partners, SOTENI, which happens to be led by Cincinnati-based Dr Victoria Wulsin and Randie Marsh.

Soteni Vic and Randi 2Dr Wulsin started working in Kenya prior to the HIV/AIDS pandemic when she was in medical school.  She returned in 1995 working for USAID as their HIV/AIDS Regional Advisor, and she started SOTENI in 2003 to help provide treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS in four areas of Kenya.  SOTENI has a local Kenyan board with representation from each of the areas that they serve and, while based in Cincinnati, Dr Wulsin is deeply involved in Kenya including serving as the Chancellor of Mt Kenya University.  Professor Evans Kerosi of Mt Kenya University is traveling with us today to observe the work with the P&G water purification packets.  We’re also accompanied by Edward Wanyonyi, one of SOTENI’s central staff based in Nairobi, and Kalvin, the overall coordinator for this area and a member of the community.

Soteni buckets 2We’re in the village of Ugunja but village is a bit misleading since this is a large rural area where SOTENI is providing care.  They primarily reach into the community with AIDS barefoot doctors.  In this area they have six “doctors” and today we’re traveling with George and Paul as well as their supervisor Churchill.  The “doctors” are paid staff and members of the community with a high school education and good English skills.  They go through rigorous training so that they’re equipped to provide assistance to the community.  They’ve had quite a bit of success in reducing the stigma against HIV/AIDS which is essential to effectively prevent the spread of the virus.

Soteni Aids barefoot doctors 2Today, I’ve asked to visit with some of the beneficiaries of the SOTENI effort to provide clean drinking water.  We’re in the area where George is the AIDS barefoot doctor.  He takes us to the home of 33 year old Paulene Akwiri.  She is HIV positive and has been on antiretroviral drugs since 2004.  She has four children and her mother-in-law is also HIV positive and lives in the same homestead.  This is a very poor community without electricity and unlike most homes in Kenya they do not even have a radio. 

SOTENI Paulene Akwiri 2With assistance of SOTENI, Paulene has an income generation activity of raising goats.  They live in mud houses with tin roofs.  Paulene has a better water supply than most of her neighbors because she lives relatively close to a borehole and uses this as her water source. 

Soteni serving water 2

 

 

 

 

 

After Paulene shows us how she uses the P&G water purification packets to treat her water, she explains that people like her that have HIV/AIDS need purified water to prevent opportunistic infections.  She knows that she’s at greater risk of these infections because of her lowered immunity due to the virus.  From our open conversation about her HIV status, it’s clear that SOTENI’s AIDS barefoot doctors have been effective in reducing stigma against status.

Soteni Rose Akoth collecting 2Many of the families in this area do not have access to a protected water source, and I ask to see some of the people living in those areas.  We go deeper into the rural area and visit with Rose Akoth who collects her water from an open spring.  This type of water source, with dirty and highly contaminated water, is the type for which the P&G packets are ideal.

 

 

 

 

 

SOTENI Rose carrying 2After seeing where she collects her water, I’m not surprised when Rose tells me that her family has suffered frequently from waterborne diseases prior to receiving the packets.  She receives the packets every month when she attends the SOTENI HIV/AIDS support group.  She tells us that she drinks the treated water every day.  She suffered from typhoid fever not long before receiving the packets and is very appreciative to be able to have safe water for her family. 

Soteni Rose Akoth cup 2

 

She confides that she doesn’t know what she’d do if she no longer had access to the packets.  They’ve made a big difference in her life.  She knows that she’s supposed to boil water but charcoal is too expensive for her.  She confides that people with HIV/AIDS like her are more susceptible to infections and that it’s particularly important for them to have clean water.

Our last stop is even further into rural Siaya.  We meet Douglas Onyango who shows us the shallow spring where 200 people in this community gather water.  He tells me that after rains or during the morning and evening when people gather their water, it becomes very dirty.  Like other people with HIV/AIDS in this area, he’s had access to the purification packets for about six months.  His wife, Maria, shows us how they use the packets to make their water healthy.

Soteni Douglas & Maria Were 2It’s clear that Maria is an expert in the process and she tells me that she really appreciates having clean water for her family that includes nine children.  Douglas tells us that they wouldn’t be able to afford to purchase the packets and appreciate the donation from P&G and Soteni.  And, while they’ve had access to other purification products in the past through the health clinic where they receive their antiretroviral drugs, they feel that the P&G packets are the best because of the taste of the treated water and because it’s the only one they trust to purify the water since they can see it work.

Soteni carrying kid 2I’ve seen just a sample today of the more than 4,000 people who are being providing clean drinking water through the SOTENI project.  Over two years, SOTENI will provide more than 700,000 P&G water purification packets in order to provide more than 7 million liters of clean water.  It’s clear that many of the people in this area are very vulnerable and the P&G packets are an appropriate technology to treat their water.  I’ve been impressed with the AIDS barefoot doctors outreach and how it’s been effective in reducing the stigma of HIV/AIDS and now in effectively teaching people how to treat their drinking water to reduce opportunistic infections and keep them healthy.


 

Comments

As a Cincinnati-based employee and friend of Dr. Wulsin, I think it's nice to see the additional connection to our city.

Greg,

Thanks for the great summary of your trip. As a Board member for SOTENI, I'm so grateful for your support and P&G's involvement in the SOTENI program. The impact you are helping us make is truly profound. I'm both proud and thankful for all that you are doing for those who need our help so desperately!

- steve

Dr. Allgood,
As a SOTENI International board member, I'm so grateful for your moving and detailed report about our work in Kenya and for the effective partnership between our organization and the CSDW program. Your report shows how the combination of P&G's technology and SOTENI's deep reach into rural areas produce life-changing benefits for people whose needs are so great.
Through such partnerships, those resourceful people can, and do, help themselves to break the cycle of poverty and disease. Thank you for your vital work.

It is great to hear that P&G is partnering with SOTENI to reach people in rural communities. It is so difficult to reach people living outside the city: Utilizing barefoot doctors will prove to expand the reach of P&G's philanthropic efforts and give every child clean, safe drinking water.

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