The water quality in Kenya is affected by factors like climate change, extended periods of drought and catchment degradation. Clean water in Kenya is not only scarce, but it is also not distributed fairly. Those who can pay for clean water in Kenya can much more quickly get access to it than Kenya’s poor. According to the World Health Organization and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), only 63 percent of the population has access to clean water and a mere 30 percent has access to sanitation facilities.
Effects and Improvement of Poor Water Quality in Kenya
Many people get their water from the nearest water hole and their toilet is a hole in the back of their home. These water holes are contaminated with raw sewage, as well as industrial wastes, parasites, bacteria and diseases. Without access to clean water and sanitation, more than 20,000 people die annually from preventable diarrheal diseases and water-borne illnesses such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery.
Organizations like Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) are working with local water and sewage companies to improve the water quality and sanitation for Kenya’s poor. In Dandora, a poor community in Nairobi, Kenya, WSUP has laid 23 kilometers of new pipeline to improve water quality in Kenya. Their efforts are providing access to clean water to more than 52,000 people. Prior to this project, as much as 90 percent of the water intended for the community was illegally diverted or lost because of leaks. People had to buy water from privately-owned boreholes that were often several kilometers away.
Legal and metered water sources have reduced water costs making it affordable for people in low-income communities. More importantly, access to clean water and toilets has improved. John Chege, a field sociologist with Nairobi City Water and Sewage Company (NCWSC), reports a dramatic reduction in the number of people requesting medicine and treatment for illnesses. Chege states, “From my observations, I think people’s health is improving.”
There is hope that the new pipeline will extend to other low-income communities, improving water quality in Kenya for all people.
– Mary Barringer