Africa's cities are growing at an unprecedented rate. In Kenya alone, the urban population, currently at 12 million, will more than triple to 40 million by 2050. This rapid urbanization has huge implications for water use and wastewater management in the country’s cities, which already face rising water and sanitation demands and problems, such as pollution and overexploitation.
Today, barely half of Kenya’s urban population has access to water. Less than a third have access to improved sanitation, and only 40 percent of Nairobi is connected to a sewerage system. The government’s national development plan, Kenya Vision 2030, articulates an ambition to fill these gaps and ensure that all citizens have access to basic water and sanitation by 2030, the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). In order to achieve that vision, however, a multi-pronged approach involving financing and monitoring is needed.
Through various International Development Association (IDA) investments in the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), Athi Water Services Board (AWSB) and Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project (KISIP), the World Bank has had a long-established involvement in helping increase water access and sanitation services in Kenya – but there is still much more work to be done.
As Nairobi has grown, more and more poor urban dwellers have been pushed into informal and low-income settlements, where there is little or no water or sanitation. Poor infrastructure and squalid living conditions are prevalent in these communities, and overcrowding has exacerbated the already hazardous health conditions.
In the Kayole-Soweto settlement on the eastern periphery of Nairobi, women and children often walked long distances to get a small amount of daily water.
“We used to get water from Umoja,” says resident Beatrice Akoth Okoth. “It's about 10-12 km from this place. You couldn’t even walk there twice [in a day], and you could only carry a 20-liter container. But because cleanliness starts with water, we couldn't keep ourselves clean.”
Angeline Mutunga also suffered from an inadequate water supply in her settlement, the Matopeni / Spring Valley Ward.
“We had challenges with water availability in Spring Valley,” Mutunga said. “In the last 5 to 6 years, we used borehole water due to the water shortage. The sewer connection was also very poor. The septic tank latrines, when used for a long time, caused a very foul smell.”
The World Bank-supported Nairobi Sanitation Project, approved in 2012, focused on providing greater water and sanitation access for people in urban settlements by leveraging commercial and customer finance to support project financing, as well as by increasing the amount of safely disposed fecal sludge, reducing water contamination and improving the overall environmental health risk – certainly no small feat.
To deliver on this ambition, the Bank provided US$4.08 million in output-based aid subsidies (OBA) for water and sanitation services, US$250,000 for monitoring the use of such services, and technical assistance. The OBA subsidies aimed to support the financing of the infrastructure needed for household water and sanitation and its connection to trunk sewers and mainline water supplies. The technical assistance focused on activities such as supporting community engagement, helping NCWSC access a commercial loan and the implementation of social marketing and hygiene promotion activities.
As a result, 84,940 people in Nairobi’s informal settlements were provided with access to improved water sources, and 137,243 people were connected to the sewerage network. Moreover, the project also resulted in numerous environmental and public health benefits, such as less drainage from pit latrines flowing into the streets, decreases in open defecation, and fewer reported incidents of diseases such as cholera.