Water accessibility key in sustaining good hygiene

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020 00:00 |

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Like many countries in the world, Kenya has been battling the coronavirus pandemic for months. In response to the crisis, several measures have been taken by the government, including hand washing with soap and water.

Access to safe water and improved sanitation is a challenge in the country.  

The 2019 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Wash) joint monitoring programme report by World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund 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 at home, complicating fight against Covid-19 in low and middle income countries. 

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six is aims at ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

A key target of this goal is to achieve access to adequate and equitable hygiene for all and end open defecation.

Kenya, under this goal, has committed 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 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 it as a right of every Kenyan. 

National and county governments share responsibility of facilitating access to water and sanitation services.

Specifically, national government is responsible for water resource management, whereas county governments are responsible for delivering water and sanitation services.

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 made so far is now threatened by climate change and rising poverty levels.

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

Nakuru has installed eight permanent handwashing stations with clean drinking water with funding from UN-Habitat to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The stations were set up by the Nakuru Municipal Board through the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA).

Nakuru Municipality, with over 600,000 residents, faces various challenges including a shortage of water and sanitation facilities and services.

The handwashing facility, which has a separate tap for drinking water, serves up to 31,000 residents.

With handwashing stations noticeably increasing in communities and other public spaces, county governments, as part of their pandemic 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 handwashing post Covid-19.

Leaders and the development community should seize on high-level political interest in preventive role of water, sanitation, and hygiene to help reach SDG three and six. 

Good water governance will be needed to ensure adequate supply of adequate quality water to fight and prevent future pandemics.

Interventions should focus on strengthening policy, institutional and regulatory frameworks. — The writer is a programmes officer, Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations 

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