It is estimated that 565 million people in Sub Saharan Africa have no access to sanitation, and 330 million people live without access to safe water. The poverty link to water, sanitation and hygiene is well proven; addressing these issues leads to improved livelihoods and increased productivity (UNICEF, WHO report, 2010).
Among the Kenyan population of 46 million, 41% still rely on unimproved water sources, such as ponds, shallow wells and rivers translating to 19 million people, while 59% (27 million) of Kenyans use unimproved sanitation solutions translating to 27 million people. These challenges are especially evident in the rural areas and the urban slums. A water.org report of 2018 alludes that, 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.
This shortage therefore means that a large population of women and children in the rural areas spend up to one-third of their day fetching water for consumption and domestic use, a daunting task which leaves them exposed to risk of attack by predators, yet the water gathered is also the most susceptible to water-borne diseases.
Approaches to achieving sustainable sanitation solutions
A sustainable sanitation solution system seeks to protect and promote human health by providing a clean environment and breaking the cycle of diseases. In order to be sustainable, a sanitation system has to be not only economically viable, socially acceptable and technically and institutionally appropriate, but it should also protect the environment and the natural resources.
1. providing an enabling environment
Creating an enabling environment is vital when applying an innovative approach including political, legal, institutional, financial and economic, educational, technical and social elements. This poses a challenge as a result of high level changes in policies, financial instruments and organization mechanisms. A clear impact can be realized only if interventions target all relevant levels of stakeholders, through policy dialogue, capacity building, and technical assistance.
2. Participatory planning
The involvement of stakeholders, their problems, priorities and points of view in any planning process is widely used to increase the chances of success of a project. Through participatory approach, mobilization and awareness creation among the local population is critical in making profound decision, based on needs assessment. In particular, considering needs of poor especially marginalized groups like women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. Participatory planning in sanitation is essential especially because hygienic improvement on a household level can only be achieved by the people who live, act and work in that household.
3. sustainable positive change in hygiene behavior
The desired change has to be initiated by the households in the communities. The model has to take the form of responding to household needs and priorities, since the household is the level at which decisions are made and where behavior change begins. Thus, planning is focused on household demands and requires the involvement of all stakeholders in the process from planning to implementation. Arno Rosemarin says that “Sanitation is firstly about human behavior; and to be successful, systems need to prioritize such things as affordability, comfort, dignity, privacy, odour control, ease of cleaning and user acceptance by men, women, elderly and children. To be sustainable, sanitation systems must build in all these aspects.”
4. Develop and share knowledge products
To support awareness raising activities, knowledge sharing has proven to be a successful tool –because it provides information critical about what we think people know and they have no absolutely knowledge of the same. This helps in creating the desired change of behavior, perception, attitude towards best practices of sustainable sanitation. The heart of the knowledge task is to determine what communities want and offer it to them in an attractive and accessible way, aiming to encourage knowledge utilization based on individuals’ preferences. Knowledge sharing can take the approach of advertising through mass media, demonstrations, special offers, word of mouth for purposes of serving social objectives.
5. Access to safe water supply
The government of Kenya through the state agencies have the responsibility of providing access to safe, sufficient and reliable drinking water supply. This is through partnerships and support of innovations driving the agenda of universal healthcare in Kenya and Africa. In addition, allocating budget towards water and sanitation programmes in the country will increase the population of communities accessing clean and reliable water. Improved water access includes household connections, public standpipes, rainwater collection, boreholes, and protected wells, but not water vendors, unprotected wells, unprotected springs, rivers or ponds, or tanker truck water.
The way forward
There can be different strategies to ensure access to safe water depending on the country and its social needs and especially Kenya. Implementation of sustainable strategies may have impacts on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals of universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. Expanding international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water and sanitation related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies. In addition implementing integrated water resources management policies at county levels will be appropriate.