Safe pair of hands, Kisumu

The problem

Kisumu is Kenya's third largest city. Most of its residents live in informal settlements without clean water. They use inadequate toilets shared with many other families. Water borne diseases such as dysentery and typhoid are common and open defecation is widespread.  Children here grow up surrounded by human waste and suffer from the recurrent bouts of diarrhoea. This limits the body's ability to absorb nutrients, causing malnutrition and permanent damage and 1 in 4 children in Kisumu has stunted growth.

This project is promoting water and sanitation improvements in two of Kisumu’s slums, Nyalenda and Obunga to reduce the spread of water borne diseases by ensuring that everyone is able to get clean water and understands the importance of good hygiene.

What we’re doing to help

Objective: Reduce risk of waterborne diseases for children through access to clean water and better hygiene 

Safe Pair of Hands

Location: Nyalenda A, Nyalenda B and Obunga in Kisumu City, Kisumu County, Western Kenya.
Number of beneficiaries: 11,250 residents (3,000 children under five and 8,250 of their carers)
Project date: April 2018 - April 2021
Partners:  Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP) 
Principal funder: DFID
Funding: £1.2 million

The project will bring about long term change, so that everyone in the community understands the importance of handwashing.

These are some of the project's activities:

  • Constructing 2,500 new water points and rehabilitate 3kms of water pipeline extensions
  • Helping 2,750 households with children under 5 to construct hand-washing facilities.
  • Conducting participatory design sessions with local community members, including persons with disabilities, to design water points and handwashing facilities in collaboration with the private sector and local authorities.
  • Training community based water operators on water resource management, infrastructure maintenance, pro-poor tariffs and payment mechanisms
  • Training 750 households with children under 5 to practice safer water treatment, storage and handling.
  • Helping local community based artisans and small enterprises to manufacture and/or market low cost hand washing facilities and soap.
  • Training carers of children, including teachers, on proper hand-washing practices, child environment contamination and faecal oral transmission routes
  • Teaching young children about good handwashing and hygiene practices.
  • Developing and share information, educational and communication materials that are appropriate to both carers of young children and young children themselves
  • Conducting public health campaigns through local media and outreach programmes within the local community, at local health facilities and educational institutions
  • Convening a ‘hygiene promotion and early childhood health working group’ under the Kisumu County Council Inter-Agency Group to scale up public health campaigns

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 Onga'ao, Community Health Champion, Kisumu, Kenya



What is 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.

Find out more

Improved toilets

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

Find out more

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

Find out more

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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