Clean, piped water brings dignity to people, reduces living costs, frees up time – and crucially, given the situation right now, is a critical defence against infectious diseases.

With the support of The Coca‑Cola Foundation’s Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP has been working with Kenyan city authorities to enable more than 600,000 urban residents across five cities to improve access to clean water, safe sanitation and improved hygiene.

Through new pipeline extensions, residents in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu can now connect to the water supply, either through community water dispensers located close to their homes, or taps within their property. Nancy Adhiambo, a fishmonger in Nairobi, says, “To be able to sell the fish I must first prepare them. I use water from the prepaid water dispensers to clean them. It is very helpful for business.” The water is cheaper and safer than buying water from informal water vendors.

Elsewhere in Nairobi, in the under-served community of Kaptagat, a small low-income area located next in the west of Nairobi, WSUP worked with the city utility Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company to extend the sewer network, upgrade pit latrines to pour flush toilets, and build demand for the new service.

Alice Nduta was one of the first to get a sewer connection in the community. Before, she had to use a room as a septic tank and had to pay twice a month to have the room cleaned out. “The whole community is now cleaner and there is no bad odour in the area mainly because other plot owners have also connected their toilets to the sewer line.”

In Kisumu, WSUP worked with private water operators to improve the quality of service for residents in marginalised communities. The operators deliver services on behalf of the county utility, KIWASCO. Vincent Omondi, one of the operators says, “When I started, I had little skills on water management but with support from KIWASCO through WSUP I was trained on business development, human resources, financial and customer management. This has led to business growth, and I have been able to recruit two other staff members who support me to address any cases of bursts or leaks across the lines.” Thomas Odongo, Managing Director of KIWASCO, says, “The master operators under the programme were inspired to dream more, learn more, do more and have now become better organised and profitable.”

In Nairobi and Kisumu, WSUP worked with public health officers, marketeers and community health volunteers to support hygiene promotion activities and raise awareness of issues such as safe handling of water and storing water. In Naivasha, for example, WSUP launched 10 school hygiene clubs, with 250 children trained on hygiene education and encouraged to share their knowledge both within their school and in the wider community.

Ensuring that facilities meet the needs of women and girls is a vital part of building inclusive services. In Naivasha, WSUP worked with Life Bloom Services International to develop a sanitary pads sales and distribution business which sources sanitary pads from local manufacturers at affordable prices and sells them through female sales agents in schools, institutions and low-income communities. Many of the sales agents are former sex workers, giving these women an opportunity to improve their lives through the Life Bloom social business.

As a result of the programme, utilities in four cities – Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company, Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company, Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company and Mombasa Water Supply and Sanitation Company now have an improved ability to serve the poorest communities. For WSUP, this achievement represents significant progress towards our overall goal of supporting water and sanitation providers in Kenya to provide universal access across cities in the country.