Total sanitation in Kisumu

The problem

Kisumu is Kenya's third largest city. Most of its residents are tenants living in informal settlements without access to clean water and using inadequate toilets shared by up to seven families. Water borne diseases such as dysentery and typhoid are common and open defecation is widespread. Kisumu’s high water table and frequent flooding create additional health hazards when flood water contaminated with waste flows through the street when it rains.

This project will promote water and sanitation improvements in two of Kisumu’s slums, Nyalenda and Obunga to reduce the spread of water borne diseases. Using the Community Led Total Sanitation approach, community members will be empowered to work with local government to take responsibility for providing and maintaining these services.  

What we’re doing to help

Objective: Improving water and sanitation services to reduce the incidence of water borne diseases 


Location: Nyalenda A, Nyalenda B and Obunga in Kisumu City, Kisumu County, Western Kenya.
Number of beneficiaries: 95,000 people living in these informal settlements
Project date: February 2016 - January 2022
Partners:  Umande Trust, Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP) 
Principal funders: Comic Relief
Funding: £998,861

We are improving access to clean water, hand washing facilities by facilitating community led design and management of these services through the following activities:

  • Improving relationships with local authorities will help residents of these informal settlements play a role in decision-making on environmental sanitation strategies and ensure that these are included in county integrated development plans.
  • 120 community volunteers will champion the CLTS process in 15 areas under the supervision public health officers
  • Handwashing promotion in 24 schools will reach at least 25,000 children through school clubs and global awareness days
  • 10,000 girls in and out of school and 5,000 young mothers and care givers will be targeted for advice and support on menstrual hygiene management
  • Promoting innovation to lower the cost of sanitation technologies, the availability of low-cost credit and investment incentives for landlords will lead to improved coverage of sanitation and clean water, with a target of 2,500 new clean water points and 3,750 improved toilets
  • Technical training & business coaching will be given to at least 100 artisans and at least 20 pit-emptiers. This will enable them to respond to the increased demand for latrine construction and servicing. Increasing awareness of their critical role in the city will help them to gain increased recognition by the authorities and lead to an increase in income
  • Key to the project's success is the training programme for artisans who can provide these facilties and the pit emptiers who will remove the waste and dispose of it safely.   Good hygiene promotion in schools is an important feature of the work and women and girls will also be offered information and support on menstrual hygiene.

Look how far your money can go

“We teach people how to wash their hands properly before and after eating to avoid communicable diseases.  I'm passionate about sanitation. I was born and grew up here and want to change it. That is why I volunteer.  We must do something to help.” – Maurice Ongawo, Community Health Champion, Kisumu, Kenya



Community led total sanitation

Improving sanitation and hygiene depends heavily on behaviour change. Using a set of hard hitting tools, this method aims to provoke a sense of disgust and shame which shocks the community into action. It is called ‘triggering’ and is highly effective at achieving the objective of eradicating open defecation. It highlights the high financial and health costs of this behaviour to a community and includes graphic demonstrations of the disease transmission process.
Some of the methods used in Kisumu include:

  • Community mapping of sites where people regularly defecate in the open, followed by a guided walk to show how widespread the problem is in the area
  • Calculating the volume of poo produced in a year - the community in Obunga came up with a figure of 230 lorry loads - then imagining where it all ends up!
  • Calculating the amount that community spends each year in medical bills, which can reach thousands of pounds
  • A graphic demonstration of how germs pass from faeces to food - placing some bread on the ground near a pile of poo and watching the inevitable flies move from one to the other
  • The penny drops and someone will usually pipe up with ‘we’re eating each other’s poo’ which triggers a collective ‘yuck’ and the will to do something about it.

Convincing landlords to provide sanitation facilites is vital in urban areas, where most families are tenants. Forums for landlords discuss how sickness from water borne diseases can reduce available income and make rent payment a challenge.  It is also an opportunity to explain the legal requirements for sanitation provision in Kenya.

We have trained a group of sanitation champions to use these methods to facilitate change in their communities.

Ultimately it is down to the people themselves, once they are made aware of how disease is spread, to change their habits.  Achieving an open defecation free environment, where everyone has access to and uses a toilet all the time will improve the health of everyone in the community.

A Safe Pair of Hands

YouTube playlist

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Improved toilets

We use a variety of different technologies, as appropriate to each community, to help improve sanitation and health.

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Urban water and sanitation policy

Diarrhoea is one of the world's biggest childhood killers and could be prevented through better management of environmental health

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Clean water transforms childrens' lives

LIfe has its challenges for Imelda, a young mother living with her husband Frank in a one-room house in Kisumu’s informal settlement of Obunga. She has her hands full with twins of just under a year, as well as six year old James. Imelda works hard to make the home clean and safe for...

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Better hygiene starts with education

Rose Odero has been teaching at Pandpieri Primary, Obunga for 16 years.  The school has more than a thousand pupils between 3 and 15.  She sees the new health club as crucial for the children in her care. Most of the children live in homes without clean water and with poor sanitation...

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Evelyn Anyango

Evelyn has lived in Nyalenda B all her life. She has five children. Five years ago, Evelyn’s daughter, Grace, had a severe case of diarrhoea. She tried everything to make her better, but she continued to get worse. “When Grace was six months old, she was admitted to hospital fo...

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A safer start in life: handwashing and child health in Kisumu, Kenya

In this briefing paper we outline the situation of handwashing and child health in informal settlements in Kisumu, Kenya and how Practical Action and our partners are planning to address it; and what others need to do. We are calling for:
• A clearer understanding of the barriers to better hand hygiene among children under five and their carers
• Triggering of community action to address wider environmental sanitation challenges to create a healthy future for all
• Greater recognition by all those working on early years health, of the link between diarrhoea, malnutrition and diminished life prospects; and the significance of hygiene and handwashing in breaking this cycle.
• Greater funding for hygiene programmes by both national governments and donors, meeting
commitments made under SDG 6.

Lessons in Urban Community Led Total Sanitation from Nakuru, Kenya

Community led total sanitation (CLTS) is an innovative methodology for mobilising communities to eliminate open defecation. Practical Action and Umande Trust implemented the project 'Realising the Right to Total Sanitation' in Nakuru, Kenya adapting this methodology to an urban context. This document documents the experience of this project.

Lessons Learned in Urban Community Led Total Sanitation from Nakuru, Kenya

Presentation given at the 38th Annual WEDC Conference at Loughborough University, UK., A presentation for the 38th WEDC Conference on key lessons from Practical Action's Urban CLTS work in Nakuru with the Umanda Trust. It explains how engagement with multiple stakeholders, particularly landlords, is vitally important for success.

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