The Problem

More than 72.9% of Kenya’s population lives in rural areas. According to a recent report by the Human Rights Watch, 63.2% of the said rural population is without proper water infrastructures. This forces many to resort to unsafe alternatives such as seasonal streams, earth ponds, and unprotected hand-dug wells. These sources are often exposed to an array of microbiological pollutants that spread diseases such as cholera, bilharzia and typhoid.

In the developed areas of Kenya where some form of water infrastructures do exist, proper maintenance to ensure upkeep is often neglected. This can lead to shut-offs, leaving thousands without water to bathe, flush toilets, cook, and drink. When tap water does flow, it is often contaminated with sewage.


Slow progress on sanitation and the entrenched practice of open defecation among millions around the world continue to put children and their communities at risk, UNICEF warned on World Toilet Day. 
Some 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have adequate toilets and among them 1 billion defecate in the open – in fields, bushes, or bodies of water – putting them, and especially children, in danger of deadly faecal-oral diseases like diarrhoea. 
In 2013 more than 340,000 children under five died from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene – an average of almost 1,000 deaths per day. 


Water scarcity in Kenya like several parts of Africa prevents many young children, especially girls, from attending school and receiving an education as they are expected to aid their mothers in water retrieval and household chores. A lack of clean water means the absence of sanitary facilities and latrines in schools, resulting in absenteeism 10-20 % among girls who have reached puberty. Adequate investment in drinking water and sanitation facilities would result in 272 million more school attendance days per year.


Women and girls are disproportionally burdened by scarcity of clean drinking water. In most African societies, women are seen as the collectors, managers, and guardians of water for household chores like cooking, washing, and child rearing. Because of these traditional gender labor roles, women spend around 60% of each day collecting water, which translates to approximately 110 million collective work hours every day and a decrease in the amount of time available for education, income generating activities, house-work, or childcare.


The detriment water scarcity has on educational attainment for women in turn affects the social and economic capital of women in terms of leadership, earnings, and working opportunities. The lost number of potential school days and education hinders the next generation of African women from breaking out of the cycle of unequal opportunity for gainful employment, which serves to perpetuate the prevalence of unequal opportunity for African women and adverse effects associated with lacking income from gainful employment.  With safe water nearby, women are free to pursue new economic opportunities and improve their families’ lives.