The Kenyan Water Crisis

Behind Kenya’s spectacular scenery and wildlife lies a country plagued with 46% of the population living below the poverty line. Severe droughts have led to food and water shortage. Weakened by hunger – children, nursing mothers, and the elderly are left vulnerable to malnutrition. The water and sanitation crisis is the second biggest killer of children under five years old worldwide. In the Suswa region of Kenya, homes do not have water systems so villagers collect water from nearby ponds and ditches.
“Every effort should be made to remove barriers to retain youth, and in particular girls in school to promote learning and education.  A key to this is the schools not having a reliable source of water for consumption, illness caused by water born disease and proper sanitation and health education”.
Republic of Kenya, Ministry of Finance and Planning
Kajiado District Development Plan 2002-2008

Borehole Wells in Rural Africa

The problem in rural Africa is not a lack of water, but a lack of water management.
To address water concerns in rural areas of Africa, aid projects have focused for many years on drilling borehole wells. While many have served communities in providing a source of water, they have not provided a sustainable solution in the region. Not only are borehole wells costly to install, nearly half of them in Africa have been abandoned within 12 months of installation, mainly due to the inability and expensiveness of maintaining them.
In Suswa, there is also a particular problem with high levels of fluoride in the water drawn from local borehole wells, if any, as it is meant for cattle and not for human consumption. However, the villagers do not have an alternative.

Suswa, Nairobi

In 2016, we were approached by the Rotary Club of Hurlingham in Nairobi, Kenya to partner with them on several water projects. The project involves the installation of a water collection and storage system (See Our Solution) for several schools in the Suswa region. Amongst these are four targeted schools (See Our Goal) that do not have a sustainable source of water to supply the schools and their communities. Upon interviewing their school principals, they have identified that if there is no water at home when children leave for school, inevitably a family member (almost invariably the girls) has to miss a day of school to collect water. Girls living in families without water to wash their bodies or clothing may also feel uncomfortable and will not attend school for hygienic reasons. Ultimately, women and children will often walk long distances of 20 KM round trips, with a container of water on their back, just to get water before and after school. Some children may even miss school for long periods of time because their family has temporarily relocated their home to closer sources of water.
For those who manage to fetch water after walking long distances, the water quality is of another concern. School principals have reported that typhoid, cholera, and common colds occur because of the unclean water collected from poor sources. The high levels of fluoride in the water also lead to bone and teeth damage.
Currently, the schools have small rainwater harvest systems. However during the dry seasons, which last up to 5 months, these systems run out within weeks and there is no suitable drinking water available. Sometimes the schools will have water delivered but it is not common in public schools as there is rarely a budget for this. 10,000 litres of water with 4 times the amount of fluoride recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) can be purchased for $10,000 KSH or $100 USD. This is well beyond the financial capacities of all but the wealthiest of schools and even then they often do not have storage capacity for this amount of water.
Kenya, Africa
Suswa, Nairobi, located in Rift Valley of Kenya