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Improving Water and Sanitation Conditions for Slum Dwellers in Kenya

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2 September 2011

In Kenya, nearly 60% of Nairobi's population live in slums. In the Mukuru slum, in the East of Nairobi, an EU funded project is helping to improve the health status of residents through the provision of water and sanitation facilities. 

It is said that "water is life and sanitation is dignity". However, this dignity is missing throughout most of the Mukuru slums. With a staggering population of over 600 000 people, the sanitation conditions in the Mukuru slums almost constitute a humanitarian crisis. Basic sanitation facilities such as: basic drainage, waste disposal facilities and clean water supply are almost non existent.

Through the Nairobi Informal Settlements Water and Sanitation Improvement Programme, implemented by Athi Water Services Board (AWSB) and financed under the ACP-EU Water Facility, the European Commission has been working to increasing access to water and sanitation facilities, for the Mukuru residents, as well as six other informal settlements in Nairobi.

The results have so far been positive: twelve ablution blocks, each comprising 10 toilets and bathrooms, and 10 communal water selling points (kiosk) are being constructed in Mukuru. With these sanitation blocks, people have a chance to keep themselves and their surroundings clean. This means the so-called flying toilets that are infamous in Nairobi can slowly disappear.

Two civil society organisations have prepared the communities for the allocation of land in the densely populated areas, as well as encouraged them to obtain house connections. The cooperation between the NGO's, the communities and the Nairobi Water Company has enabled the AWSB to expand its activities into the informal settlements, which was unthinkable in the past.

The ultimate idea behind the European Commission's intervention in Nairobi's slums is to establish long term, reliable and sustainable solutions for the provision and management of sanitation services and water supply.

The EU financed project "supports the government and the Nairobi Water Company to enter into informal settlements, where proper sanitation has been lacking and costs of informal drinking water services are the highest in the country", explained Sanne Willems, from the Delegation of the European Union to Kenya.  "The European Commission tries locally to encourage the water companies to move to informal settlements, establishing water kiosk and ablution blocks."

Although water is not a focal sector in the Country Strategy Paper of the EU Delegation to Kenya, many other water related projects are ongoing in the country, financed through the ACP-EU Water Facility.

Endowed with €200 million for 2008-2013, the Water Facility's main objective is to provide water and basic sanitation to the poor, and to improve water management governance in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Its funds are allocated to projects through calls for proposals.

The Water Facility also puts a strong emphasis on partnership projects to develop capacity in the ACP water and sanitation sector, leading to better water and sanitation governance and management, and to the sustainable development and maintenance of infrastructure.

Adequate capacity in the ACP water and sanitation sector is one of the critical missing factors in current efforts to meet the MDGs. The aim of partnership is to transfer expertise, knowledge and learning from water and sanitation utilities, local authorities and other water sector organisations to ACP counterparts. 

"Kenya is very successful in writing proposals and winning projects", said Sanne Willems. "There are now 15 ongoing projects and 4 have just been contracted with Government, NGO's and International Organisations, both in rural and in urban areas."

Following the 2002 Water Reform in Kenya, a network of EU funded water projects was set up in order to improve the coherence of the water and sanitation efforts. This network meets a twice a year to exchange experiences, connect initiatives and contribute to developments in the Water Sector Reform.

Visit the EuropeAid's portal for more information on the EU's support to water and sanitation in developing countries.


DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission, or any other organisation.


Despite the revenue generated by its cut-flower industry (7% of exports), Kenya suffers from the ecological footprint caused to its water resources, resulting in pollution, sanitation issues... A very interesting study underlines the issues around the Naivasha Basin, a freshwater lake North West of Nairobi:

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