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Towards accessing clean drinking water
There would be no life without water.70 percent of earth’s surface is covered by this simple molecule,
yet approximately 750 billionpeople cannot access clean drinking water. The number of people who
struggle every day to have safe water is much higher as water gets contaminated in transit and in the
home due tolowlevelsof sanitationandhygiene. AccordingtoGlobal Citizen –anorganizationthatworks
towardsfightinginjustice andinequality saysthatlack of safe water to drink causes more deathsthan all
Regional and Local perspective in numbers
Approximately358 millionAfricansdonothave access to safe water. Currently,37.7 percentof Kenyans
cannot access clean drinking water according to Dr. Kepha Ombacho, Director of Public Health at the
Ministry of Health. This is approximately17.3 million of Kenyan population with the current population
standingat approximately46million.The more reasonwhywe shouldbe worriedabout the situation.A
2014 update by UNICEF and WHO estimates that Kenya as one of those countries lagging behind in
progress towards drinking water targets.
We have watchedin the newshow people walk tensof milesunderthe scorching sun,especiallyinarid
and semi-aridareasinsearchof waterbutend upnot gettingcleanwaterbutcontaminatedwater. Inthe
year2000, UN memberstatescommittedthemselvestoMillenniumDevelopmentGoals(MDGs),apledge
that wouldsee reducedpoverty byofferingmuchneededsustainable development. Seventhgoal of the
MDGs was aimed at ensuring environmental sustainability. Among the objectives of this goal was to
reduce the number people who cannot access safe drinking water by 50 percent in 2015.
This commitment cannot be achievedby governments and NGOs alone. The private sector has a role to
play in making sure the 50 percent mark is achieved, for a healthy society, free of preventable diseases
such as diarrheaand cholera. In a broad perspective,itismore than accessingcleandrinkingwater,but
also fighting water-borne related cases.
Innovation and Partnerships
Recently P&G’s non-profit organization Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) donated 1 million litres
worthof watertoNairobi CityCounty.TheseWater-Purificationsachetsare helpingHurumaandMathare
slums residents to treat contaminated water through inexpensive water-purification technology which
transform cloudy, brown water into crystal-clear, drinkable water that meets all the requirements for
drinkingwater. Dirt,parasitesandothermaterial droptothe bottom anddisease-causingmicrobesdiein
about 30 minutes.
AllisonTummonKamhuis –Global CSDWProgramme Managerexplains thatdiarrheafromcontaminated
drinking water is one of the leading causes of illness and death among infants and children in the
developingworld.More childrendiefromdiarrhealillnessessuchascholera,typhoid anddysentery, than
from HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. Allison also notes that most North Americans do not know that
dirty water kills 1600 hundred children everyday
Imagine a family living below a dollar a day; combined with how much time theywaste fetching water.
Worse still children end up missing school to accompany their mothers to look for the precious
commodity. Afterwalkingtensof miles,itisnota guarantee thattheyfetchcleanwaterfor drinkingnot
speaking of pangs of hunger, scorching sun, walking bare footed, being pricked by thorns in the bushes
and at times being attacked by wild animals.
To ensure that we sufficiently face clean drinking water crises,we must ensure sure that both rural and
urban populationsare economicallyempoweredsothatwe can be comfortablysure thatwe will be able
to deal with bigger challenges beyond basic needs.
We must combine our efforts to ensure that we not only guarantee right to access water but also clean
drinking water. From self-help groups, non-governmental organizations, government to private sector,
responsibly of access to clean water should not be centralized to one entity but rather embrace
decentralization. Where every player has role to play and contribute to a healthy society.
Despite 18.4 millionKenyansliving below povertyline,accesstoclean waterisone of the waysto reduce
poverty.Moneywastedtopayhospital billsdue towaterborne diseases;hourswastedinfetchingwater;
children missing classes are some of the factors that contribute to poverty.
- Ends -
Kamau is communications consultant at Hill and Knowlton Strategies with a keen interest in
sustainability and social investments.