How ACT is helping to tackle access to Safe Water and Sanitation in Kenya

by ACT

  • Posted on Aug 3, 2018

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Picture: Kenyan Drought 2017 (AP)

The United Nations Development Programme’s Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The UN has outlined 17 general areas, which feed into each other in order to achieve their target of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. “The Agenda offers a unique opportunity to put the whole world on a more prosperous and sustainable development path. In many ways, it reflects what UNDP was created for.” – Achim Steiner UNDP

Goal No.6 is to provide access to safe water and sanitation and sound management of freshwater ecosystems that are essential to human health and to environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. This is why we at ACT have focussed out attention on Kenya.

With a population of 46 million, 41 percent of Kenyans still rely on unimproved water sources, such as ponds, shallow wells and rivers, while 59 percent of Kenyans use unimproved sanitation solutions. Scarcity of potable water is especially evident in rural areas and urban slums. Only 9 out of 55 public water service providers in Kenya provide continuous water supply, leaving people to find their own ways of searching for appropriate solutions to these basic needs.

Since 2014 this problem has been exacerbated by an ongoing drought, one of the main consequences of which is food insecurity. Although recent strong rains have improved the situation somewhat the cumulative effect of years of drought on the population cannot be underestimated.

A young boy scoops water from a hand-dug well, Kitui County, Kenya. Credit: Dai Kurokawa

In parts of Marsabit and Turkana, where communities are unable to reach sustained humanitarian assistance, they are at risk of sliding into emergency levels of hunger, one step away from famine, during the dry season (June – October). Kenya’s government is struggling financially and recent political unrest hasn’t helped the development of the necessary facilities at a time when they are most needed. Another consequence of Kenya’s water shortage is that large numbers of women and children have to spend at least a third of their day fetching water from sources that are increasingly harder to find. Not only does this impact on school and work but it also leave people vulnerable to predator attacks and water-borne diseases; diseases such as cholera are particularly common. UN figures show that since December 2014, Kenya has been experiencing continuous large outbreaks of cholera, with a cumulative total of 19, 797 cases reported (as of August 2017).

In Kenya, drought conditions that are expected to persist into 2018 have left millions of people severely food insecure and an estimated 500,000 people without access to water. An estimated 482,882 children require treatment for acute malnutrition, including 104,614 who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Eighty-eight per cent of these children are from arid and semi-arid counties. Drought conditions have consequence for school attendance and school participation, particularly in rural communities and can lead to rising dropout rates. (UNICEF, 4 Jan 2018).

But we can Help!

Our work in Kenya is growing. As part of our goal to enrich the community, we completed a water project that has brought pipe-borne water with storage tanks to three villages in Sitikho ward (Bungoma County, western Kenya) including Bukunjangabo S A Primary School. This project has transformed the lives of people in these communities in many significant ways. The availability of continuous water supply has made it possible to start a greenhouse farming project for the widows in Sitikho. This project is being carried out by ACT working at a grass roots level with our local partners. Having paid the government fees, we have sourced water from the Milo mains supply in Webuye town and local volunteers have laid three kilometres of pipeline to the community in Sitikho. This is also feeding a number of other communities along the route. Water storage tanks have been constructed in strategic locations in Sitikho and at the primary school. The main objective is to provide continuous supply of safe water.

Chris Nyongesa, Deputy Headmaster of Bukunjangabo S.A. Primary School, is very grateful. His school of 800 children and 16 staff now has access to clean, fresh water. Mr Nyongesa said that the new pipeline and tanks have improved sanitation at the school and provide water for drinking and for cleaning. He believes this will improve the health of the children and also their academic performance. Local leaders in the surrounding communities are also happy because the 3,000 women and children, who on a daily basis trek several miles with buckets to fetch unhygienic water from the river no longer need to bear such a burden. Furthermore, the accessible water supply is irrigating their crops.

In addition to the health and educational benefits of this initiative this water can be used to sustain agricultural initiatives like our Sitikho Green House Project. With a lot of help from the local community we have setup several green houses, which will be run by a cooperative of widows, who have been provided with seeds. This will allow the widows to generate a sustainable income to support their families. This project then began as a mission to bring water to a community in need and has grown into something much bigger. Tackling access to water has; helped tackle food insecurity, helped empower widows, benefited the health of the community and given children the free time they need to learn and enjoy being young.

This project only cost £7,000. It needed two factors to succeed; the hard work of the local community and your support.

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