Africaqua Water Shop Reprieve for Matuu Residents

By David Mwaura

Canal

Image showing dried up Yatta Canal in Yatta Sub-County. Yatta residents partly depend on this canal for domestic water supply.

Located in Yatta Constituency in Machakos County, Matuu cannot run from the desert state of majority of the areas in Eastern and North Eastern Kenya, where access to water is a nightmare to many. This has threatened every life in the regions, making it difficult for people to lead a normal life.

It is estimated that at least 17 million Kenyans lack easy access to safe drinking water. The number could be a bit higher, bearing in mind that most of the people living in Eastern, North Eastern and some parts of Rift Valley region have no access to safe drinking water. Matuu residents are among the estimated number. The residents have to struggle a lot to access safe drinking water.

The residents primarily depend on a water shop located at Kivandini market. This water comes from Tana-Athi water services board. There are very few people whose homes are connected to piped water and therefore, those who cannot collect the water from water shop rely on water deliveries from water vendors.

My interaction with the residents reveals that people are in dire need of reliable safe drinking water. Jackson Mbithi, one of the water vendors tells me that the water shop by Tana-Athi water services board is not reliable since it at times run out of the commodity, forcing people to resort to other sources of water like the borehole at the P.C.E.A Matuu whose water is salty.

“I cannot say that we have a reliable safe water source around this area. We depend on this water shop. Sometimes the water shop run out of the commodity, bringing frustrations to hundreds of people who queue here at every single moment”.

Water from the church borehole contains too much salts, making it unsuitable for drinking. Residents therefore have to brace scorching sun and dust trekking, just to get drinking water from wells located far away from the town. The wells are also not reliable since they regularly run out of this vital commodity.

Jerricans

Jerricans filled with water ready for sale at water vendors’ bay in Matuu town. The jerricans are not hygienically fit to hold drinking water.

Although the water vendors supply drinking water to residents, the jerricans they use are not in good conditions and this poses a threat to water users. The vendors use the same jerricans to collect water from different sources. Charles Maina, another water vendor explains to me why they use the same jerricans to collect water.

“We do not have money to buy extra jerricans. Remember that this is business and we have to make something out of it. We meanwhile “clean” the jerricans every time we are refilling them”, Maina explains.

He also goes ahead to tell me that getting water from different water sources is a great challenge because they have to make very long queues and therefore, they rarely get time to clean the jerricans. Africaqua water shop that will ensure a reliable supply of safe drinking water is therefore the best solution for the Matuu residents.

Water vendors and the general public will not be subjected to long queuing because water will always be ready in jerricans, meaning that they will only be required to pick the filled jerricans and leaving the empty ones for refill. This will minimize time wasting at the water shop, ensuring that people get water at the right time. The jerricans will also be in good condition reducing chances of water related infections among the residents.

Photo: Courtesy

Enhancement of Proper Sanitation is a Collective Role

The recent report on the study of predictors of open defecation among residents in the 47 counties in Kenya is probably the most devastating item one can spend time reading. The report has indicated that, out of the 47 counties, 15 of them have open defecation rates of more than 40 percent; about 5.6 million Kenyans engaging in the risky practice. The research also found out that, Turkana leads in the open defecation rates with over 88.4 percent of residents using open defecation.

The most shameful part of the findings is that, predictors of open defecation are issues that could be easily. According to John Njuguna and Charles Muruka; the forces behind this study, high poverty levels and culture among other factors contribute to an increase in the open defecation practices.

Open defecation involves people relieving themselves in bushes, water bodies and other open fields. This is a very bad habit, bearing in mind the health risk the practice poses to people. Poor sanitation usually plunges community members into a state of vulnerability to dangerous infections like cholera and diarrhea.

According to the report by Njuguna and Muruka; disabled people, girls and women are the most vulnerable to open defecation repercussions. This means that they stand a higher chance to contract diseases caused by poor sanitation practices. Women also have to put up with gender based violence in their aim to get sanitary facilities.

As expressed by World Health Organization (WHO), open defecation which is a great health hazard is a global sanitation crisis being practiced by over one billion people globally. The most heartbreaking news is that, the practice continues to gain popularity in sub-Saharan Africa while as its decreases in the developed countries.

Faecal matter dropped in water sources contaminates the water, leaving people to consume unsafe water. This exposes people to water related infections like cholera, diarrhea and hepatitis A. The researchers indicate that poor sanitation in most of the African countries lead to increased mortality rate, with a child dying every two and a half minutes.

High poverty levels have contributed to the rise in the open defecation practices and hence poor sanitation among poor community members. To properly handle this matter and decrease the open defecation practices, every stakeholder in the environment, water and health sectors should take position and handle this matter from all the dimensions.

It is time for citizens to be included in the development programs to ensure that they get enough money to support themselves and also invest in sanitation mechanisms. Through this, we will be able to fight challenges posing threat to their lives. There is no human life that is worth losing to preventable diseases like cholera and diarrhea.

Although Kenya is among the developing countries, the study report is not something to please anyone. As a country, we have to accept that there is a serious problem threatening our lives and explore on the ways to deal with the problem once and for all. The report should be a wakeup call to the government, private sectors and Kenyans at large to get out of the comfort zones and chart the way forward.

Forums to sensitize people on the need to enhance proper sanitation should be set up in different parts of the country. People should be educated on the health risks of open defecation and be empowered with resources to facilitate proper sanitation mechanisms.

National, county governments and private sectors should join hands to ensure that sanitation facilities are improved in both rural and urban areas. Modern sanitation facilities like toilets should be constructed near people and be trained on how to use them. This will help to reduce the number of people using open defecation.

Access to safe drinking water should also be made possible to ensure that the water being consumed by everyone is not contaminated. Water treatment and testing should be made mandatory before any amount of water is consumed. The exercise should be carried out across the country without any discrimination.

We should not just sit back, relax and assume that everything is okay when preventable diseases like cholera and hepatitis A continue to rob us of our loved ones. If we will manage to deal with sanitation challenges, then more than half of the viral diseases killing our people would be put off.

 

Africaqua BCtA Membership Press Release

Africaqua BCtA Membership Press Release

Nairobi, June 30, 2016 /3BL Media/

AfricAqua, a social enterprise focused on innovative solutions for delivering clean water to low-income communities, joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to provide 20,000 Kenyans with access to safe drinking water through 100 Watershop water outlets. These ‘water malls’ are expected to employ 200 young adults as distributors and offer entrepreneurship opportunities to community members offering related products and services.

The BCtA is a global initiative that aims to support private sector efforts to fight poverty through its core business. It is supported by several international organizations and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

AfricAqua’s inclusive One Safe Drop initiative is introducing a novel concept of clean-water delivery to areas of Kenya without access to safe drinking water. Throughout the country, demand for clean water is so high that existing water-delivery mechanisms cannot keep up. AfricAqua’s innovative distribution model involves establishing community water hubs, which not only provide safe, treated water (with water-quality results available to consumers), but incorporate space for pharmacists, solar, health and hygiene products as well as water-related merchandise.

According to David Kuria, founder and Chief Executive Officer of AfricAqua, “In the Post-2015 era, access to clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for households, schools and health facilities is of critical importance. But this can only happen by bringing clean water the last mile to poor communities. AfricAqua’s One Safe Drop initiative aims to tackle this challenge while providing local employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. We are pleased that our efforts have been recognized by the Business Call to Action.”

In Kenya, clean water is scarce and most people cannot afford home-treatment systems. Epidemics of diarrhea, cholera and parasitic worms have severely impacted poor communities as a result of contaminated water sources and unsanitary water collection and consumption equipment. Supplies of treated water are constrained by challenges with distribution – especially to the low-income communities who face the direst need. With continued population growth, it is estimated that by 2025, Kenya’s per capita water availability will be approximately two thirds less than it is now. Unless the distribution gap is addressed, this will have serious consequences on public health and the nation’s economy.

AfricAqua aims to bridge this gap by adapting services to the specific needs of each community and developing public-private partnerships that facilitate efficiency, innovation and delivery. In addition to bringing 20,000 people safe water and other critical services by 2020, AfricAqua’s One Safe Drop initiative will provide clean water to health centers and schools.

The company’s inclusive business model was informed by Ikotoilet, a social enterprise that incorporated snack shops, showers and money-transfer services along with sanitation services. AfricAqua’s One Safe Drop initiative has adopted a flexible approach, offering clean water both at Watershops (where reverse-osmosis treatment takes place) and kiosks throughout densely populated areas. This flexibility not only makes AfricAqua’s business model sustainable and scalable, but provides much-needed employment opportunities for local youth as water distributors and affiliated shopkeepers.

“Beyond affordable access to safe water, this simple but innovative model has the potential to transform the health, economies and education outcomes of the communities it serves,” said Paula Pelaez, Programme Manager of the BCtA. “We welcome AfricAqua’s membership to the Business Call to Action.”

AfricAqua’s first Water shops in Kajiado, Machakos and Narok are now being piloted along with community water kiosks; these communities were chosen because of their acute demand. AfricAqua has provided communities members in these locations with 1 litre, 10 Litre, 20 litre and 25 litre reusable cans for easy water collection, and disinfects the cans each time they are refilled. With Kenya’s significant demand, the company has committed to scale up to 100 Watershops by the end of 2020 and expects to break even within five years of operation. This dramatic expansion is being made possible by partnerships with Government of Kenya, Water.org and Coca Cola among others, which are providing financing as well as technical assistance and expertise in business innovation and growth.