Of the 884 million people globally who lack access to improved water sources, 84% live in rural areas (UN 2009).
Residents of Kapsokwony in Bungoma County have for a long time experienced disrupted water supply due to instability caused by land related clashes. Water borne diseases were very rampant in the region due to consumption of water from untreated sources. Long periods of drought did not make the situation better.
Sometime in 2013, the region’s major health centre, the Kapsokwony Sub-County Referral Hospital, had to close the inpatient services when Elgon East Water project stalled due to serious water shortage. The head of medical services recalls
“Inpatient services highly depend on a reliable water supply, for surgeries, daily cleaning of bedding and ward rooms. Therefore, in the absence of a sustained water service, the hospital had to make the unpopular decision, to reduce risks of cross infections and disease incidences.”
During this period until 2014, the hospital management encouraged patients, who needed close attention of doctors, to be nursed at home, where they could easily get water for their hygiene. In extreme cases, where the hospital could not send patients home, they relied on the hospital ambulance, which made several trips to a nearby stream, some 12km away. This meant, the fuel that otherwise could be reserved for emergency cases, was used up in search of water. Staff were also forced to rely on the same means to get water for their normal use.
However, this situation was turned around in the late 2014, when Elgon East water supply was earmarked for KMT support under Public- Private- Community Partnership (PPcP). The community outsourced daily management and operations of the project to a private operator, Romada Consultants
Through a credit facility, Sustainable Water Fund, initiated by KMT and financial support from Bungoma County Government, the private operator has sustainably revived the operations of the project. KMT through its implementing partner SNV took the utility management through a series of trainings, including non-revenue water management and financial management to build their capacity. The utility was also linked to product and service providers, through an equipment leasing contract model. The linkages led to the utility acquiring meters upfront, which has seen the levels of non-revenue water drop from 80% at the beginning of the project to 56% as at 2016.
Table: Progress in Elgon East under private operator partnership
As a result, the hospital is under 24-hour supply and has resumed inpatient services to full capacity. The ambulance is being used for the right purpose and no more costs are incurred on water transportation.
There is now reliable supply of water to the over 34, 000 residents of Kapsokwony Sub County. The utility is breaking even and is thus able to operate optimally. Further, due to the blooming project, there is emergence of small micro enterprises like car-wash parlors and hotels, which have employed the youth and become a vital source of income to them.
The Impact on WEE
Prior to the program, most girls would assist their mothers by fetching water at the streams late in the evening after school providing criminals with opportunities to propagate indecent acts. By securing yard taps and individual household connections fetching water is now safer and there are less incidences of gender based violence.
The increase in the connections has also enabled women and girls in the Elgon East area to take less time fetching water enabling them to engage in other productive economic activities.
The water project is now looking to securing registration as a small water company, under the Kenya Companies Act as it has met all minimum thresholds.
KMT and SNV will continue offering technical guidance to the project while scoping for new projects to support within the county.