NAIROBI, Kenya June 18 – Vast inequalities in the accessibility, availability and quality of water services is still evident with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that 1 in 10 people (785 million) still lack basic services, including the 144 million who drink untreated surface water.
Rural areas remain worst affected with data showing that 8 in 10 people still lack access to these services.
The Joint Monitoring Programme report, Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities finds that while significant progress has been made toward achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene, there are huge gaps in the quality of services provided.
Rural areas of Kenya are left without water and urban areas aren’t better off, with lack of enough funding towards ensuring proper pumping stations and piping systems which are often pirated and in disrepair.
Kenya’s natural water resources also do not provide an equitable delivery of water to the various regions of the country and the country’s water basins do not reach an equitable area of the country. This leaves most of the population without safe drinking water.
Rapid urbanization has also pushed poor urban dwellers to the slums, where there is no water or sanitation, and overcrowding exacerbates the already hazardous health conditions hence the need to secure water sources as well as cap wastage to achieve a continuous supply of water and storage in times of calamities.
“Mere access is not enough. If the water isn’t clean, isn’t safe to drink or is far away, and if toilet access is unsafe or limited, then we’re not delivering for the world’s children,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, Associate Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF.
“Children and their families in poor and rural communities are most at risk of being left behind. Governments must invest in their communities if we are going to bridge these economic and geographic divides and deliver this essential human right.”
The United Nations classifies Kenya as a chronically water scarce country on the basis of having one of the lowest natural water replenishment rates, at 647 meters cubed per capita per annum which is far below the 1,000 meters cubed per capita per annum.
Estimates of water supply in the country indicate that only about 56 per cent of the population has access to safe water.
Water scarcity in Kenya has been an issue for decades, as only a small percentage of the country’s land is optimal for agriculture and the year round climate is predominantly arid.
“How responsible are we with the use of the resource that we have? We have the technology, water recycling processes but there is also the management of that water,” said the Regional Director WaterAid East Africa Olutayo B-Bowale.
With a population of 46 million, 41 per cent of Kenyans still rely on unimproved water sources, such as ponds, shallow wells and rivers, while 59 per cent of the population use unimproved sanitation solutions. These challenges are especially evident in the rural areas and the urban slums.
Globally, there are still 844 million people who do not have clean water close to home, impacting human and economic development.
In Kenya, 40pc of households are without access to clean water close to home, according to a 2017 Joint monitoring Programme, a body set up by UNICEF and the World Health Organization to collect data on water and sanitation.
The statistics show that whilst significant progress has been made toward achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene, there are huge gaps in the quality of services provided.
These needs to be highlighted if East Africa is to achieve the ambitious targets of the Sustainable Development goals, there is need to accelerate progress in this area.
On access to basic sanitation services, the report highlights that 2.1 billion people have gained access to the services since 2000 but in many parts of the world the wastes produced are not safely managed.
Two billion people still lack basic sanitation, among whom seven out of 10 live in rural areas and one third live in the Least Developed Countries.
UNICEF states that in Kenya, approximately 80 percent of hospital attendance is due to preventable diseases and about 50 per cent of these illnesses are water, sanitation and hygiene related.
Coverage of adequate sanitation has dropped from 49 per cent to 43 per cent in recent years, with 16 million (50 per cent) of Kenyans in lack of adequate sanitation.
More than 90 per cent of the water and sanitation related disease outbreaks occur in the rural areas with 50 per cent of rural households said to have no toilet facilities at all, and where they exist they are generally unhygienic.
Up to 50 per cent of the urban populations reside in slum environments where sanitation conditions are appalling with schools on average having only one latrine per 100 pupils compared against the recommended maximum of 40 pupils per latrine.
On average more than three-quarters of Kenya is still vulnerable to disasters, especially floods, drought and cholera.
The 2000-2017 Joint Monitoring Programme report indicates that whilst 23 countries have achieved near elimination on open defecation, meaning less than 1 per cent of the population is practicing open defecation, 39 countries, the number of people practicing open defecation actually increased, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa where many countries have experienced strong population growth over this period.
It also shows that nearly three quarters of the population of the Least Developed Countries did not have basic hand washing facilities.
“Every year 297,000 children under five years die due to diarrhea linked to inadequate WASH. Poor sanitation and contaminated water are also linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid,” the report quoted.
In conclusion Kelly Ann Naylor emphasized the need for governments to provide adequate funding and plan strategies so as to close inequality gaps in the accessibility, quality and availability of water, sanitation and hygiene.