Kenya: Improve Access to Clean Water in Covid Fight

Like other countries, Kenya has been battling the Covid-19 pandemic for months. In response to the crisis, several measures have been put in place, such as regular hand washing with soap and running water.

Access to safe water and improved sanitation is a challenge in Kenya. The WASH joint monitoring programme report (2019) by The World Health Organization and Unicef found that only 59 per cent of Kenyans have access to basic water services and only 29 per cent have access to sanitary services.

Globally, 2.2 billion people lack access to safe water, complicating the fight against Covid-19 in low and middle income countries.

The aim of sustainable development goal (SDG) Number 6 is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. A key target of this is to achieve access to adequate and equitable hygiene for all and end open defecation.

Under Sustainable Development Goal 6, Kenya has committed itself to achieve by 2030 universal and equitable access to safe and affordable water for all; access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and an end to open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

The government’s commitment to enhance access to safe water and improved sanitation services is enshrined in Article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, which recognises access to safe water and improved sanitation services as a right of every Kenyan. National and county governments share the responsibility of facilitating access to water and sanitation services.

Hand-washing stations

The pandemic is making it evident that investments in the provision of basic water, sanitation and hygiene services must be a key priority in the coming years, not least since the progress that has been made so far is now threatened by climate change and rising poverty levels.

Amid this pandemic, there has been emergence of numerous hand-washing facility innovations coupled with a newly formed belief that hand-washing with soap or using sanitisers is critical in minimising spread of the coronavirus.

One of Kenya’s largest urban areas, Nakuru, has installed eight permanent hand-washing stations with clean drinking water with funding from UN-Habitat. The stations were set up by the Nakuru Municipal Board through the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (Kara).

Nakuru Municipality

Nakuru Municipality, which has over 600,000 residents, faces various challenges including a shortage of water and sanitation facilities and services. The hand-washing facility, which has a separate tap for drinking water, serves up to 31,000 residents.

With hand-washing stations noticeably increasing in communities and other public spaces, County governments, as part of their Covid-19 response plans need to take urgent steps to make clean water accessible to all communities by drilling boreholes and mobilising water tankers to supply water and sustain the promotion of hand-washing post Covid-19.

Leaders and the development community should seize the high-level political interest in the preventive role of water, sanitation and hygiene to help reach Sustainable Development Goal 3 and 6. Good water governance will therefore be needed to ensure an adequate supply of quality water to fight and prevent future pandemics. Interventions should focus on strengthening the policy, institutional and regulatory frameworks.

Mr Amwoi is a programs officer, Kara. vamwoi@kara.or.ke

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