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Issues Africa: Kenya Study

(c) Sarah White

The Causes of Clean Water Shortage and their

Effects on Kenyans

by Camtran Huynh

(c) Sarah White

Water Scarcity in Kenya

by Shannyn Snyder

Kenya’s people are, according to the United Nations, one of the most struggling populations in the world. With a population of approximately 36.6 million and an annual population growth of approximately 2.6%, the country’s poverty index has also continued to steadily rise.

Water scarcity in Kenya has been an issue for decades, as only a small percentage of the country’s land is optimal for agriculture, and the year-round climate is predominantly arid. A recent natural disaster also caused major soil degradation and refugee displacement throughout the country.

Kenya’s natural water resources also do not provide an equitable delivery of water to the various regions of the country and the country’s water basins do not reach an equitable area of the country. This leaves most of the population without any fresh water. Rapid urbanization has also pushed poor urban dwellers to the slums, where there is no water or sanitation, and overcrowding exacerbates the already hazardous health conditions.

Kenya’s water politics are also unique, as there has been a divide between areas that have been privatized and sectors where investors have been discouraged from developing. At a time when water privatization is seen as a negative in developing countries because of the high costs that are passed along to the impoverished, lack of development here means a lack of piping, sanitation or tanker service. Rural areas of Kenya are left without water and urban areas aren’t much better off, as Kenya’s virtually bankrupt government does not have the funds to run pumping stations and existing piping systems are often pirated and in disrepair.

Kenya’s water shortage also means that a large population of women and children spend up to one-third of their day fetching water in the hot sun from the nearest fresh water source. This backbreaking work leaves roughly half of the country’s inhabitants vulnerable to serious dangers. In addition to exposure to the elements and risk of attack by predators, the primary water gatherers are also the most susceptible to water-borne diseases.

Water pathogens are a huge health problem in Kenya, as the people have been left unprotected against sporadic epidemics such as cholera and parasitic worms. The rate of exposure is extremely high because the water is not only contaminated at the basins and pumps where water is collected but the containers are almost always “found,” second-hand objects, often previously used for oil, fertilizer or wastes.

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations that are picking up the slack of Kenya’s government, providing health care services and water solutions. Since the crisis is so widespread, however, there is much to be done. There are some effective interim solutions, though, and communities hoping for a new well would benefit from proactive education about water filtration to make their current water supplies work as best as possible, for now. The National Science Foundation has shown that simply straining water through a cloth can effectively reduce pathogens, including the bacterium that causes cholera, and rain harvesting techniques can benefit families and small communities hoping to use a dedicated water source for agriculture.

Contact Shannyn at

Water Insecurities in Kenya

By Hem Lata Shrestha

Living in a developed country, sometimes we forget what it is like to spend a day without food and drink. Can you imagine living in a place where you have to walk miles and miles for drinking water and still the quality of water is questionable? Such is a situation in developing countries in the Horn of Africa. Due to ongoing dry rainy season and drought as a result of it, people in Africa are traveling miles and miles to get water for family but still unsuccessful.

Water has been a valuable asset for the community. Water is used for various daily activities including drinking, irrigation, and different daily chores such as bathing, washing and keeping up with health hygiene. Due to no rain, farmers in Africa are leaving their homes because nothing can be grown in dry and arid area. Out of only few percent of irrigable land, people are not even being able to put to use because of lack of rain and water. When land is non irrigable, no crops can be grown and all the herds that farmers rely on die as well. Not only animals but also the young kids and old people are severely malnourished and die because of it. The countries such as Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea which are in the Horn of Africa are critical call for “Food Insecurity”.

According to FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization), food insecurity is defined as “Exists when people lack access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food, and therefore are not consuming enough for an active and healthy life. This may be due to the unavailability of food, inadequate purchasing power, or inappropriate utilization at household level.” According to FAO, in 2010 about 239 million experienced hungers in Sub Saharan Africa and every year the number is increasing rapidly. Some of the consequences of the drought are family separation in search of water and food, higher competition for the available food and resources due to influx of new people from other famine countries, loss of man power and resources.

In order to help these populations deal with the famine, different national and international organizations are getting together and providing food, water, sanitation and other basic needs for the survival. One such humanitarian act is Dadaab Refugees Camps in Kenya which is the world’s largest refugee camp designed for 90,000 people but at present due to increase in number of people, it has almost 400,000 people in three camps and the numbers are increasing drastically. Since 1992, the camp has been run by CARE to provide basic services such as food, water and sanitation. Along with the CARE, organization such as UNICEF, WFO, FAO and other many organization are working together.

The Dadaab Refugee Camp is already overcrowded with low resources and high demand. With the massive influx of people from other neighboring countries especially Somalia, Ethiopia, the situation has been worse. Somalians travel miles and miles with a high hope of making thier living in the camp, but the place is so crowded that people are building tents and using the given sources. Some of the problem seen are sharing 20 people per latrine which is only 5m deep, and on top of that people are using open field for defecation which are unhygienic. The open defecation and the increase in refugees welcomes the increase in the rate of transmission of communicable diseases. There has already been 42 cases of measles and one death in the Dadaab camping site. Along with malnutrition, communicable disease has been another rising problem in the area. Different organizations are working together in providing food, water and vaccination and also build another refugee camp to meet the increasing demand.

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