Experts gather in Nairobi to fight water crisis

Tuesday February 23 2016

President Uhuru Kenyatta with some delegates shortly after opening the 18th African Water Association congress in Nairobi on February 22, 2016. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

President Uhuru Kenyatta with some delegates shortly after opening the 18th African Water Association congress in Nairobi on February 22, 2016. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By PAULINE KAIRU
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By SAMUEL KARANJA
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Water experts from various countries in Africa are in Nairobi for a four-day conference to discuss ways of ensuring sustainable access to the commodity and sanitation on the continent.

The issues the 1,500 delegates will discuss during the 18th African Water Association congress, which started Monday, include management of sewage, public-private partnerships for financing water and sanitation infrastructure and sustainable provision of the commodity to the poor.

While opening the congress Monday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the provision of clean drinking water in the country and in Africa remains a great challenge that governments must strive to tackle.

He noted that 5 per cent of Africa’s gross domestic product is lost every year due to water quality-related issues that impact on health and productivity, pushing the poor further into poverty.

Of the 1.8 billion people worldwide who do not have easy access to water, two thirds live in Africa, especially in informal settlements of large cities.

President Kenyatta said fresh water availability will be increasingly strained and more than 40 per cent of the population is expected to live in severely water-stressed areas by 2050. Africa will be among those worst affected.

Kenya is a water-scarce country as 80 per cent of the country is arid and semi-arid.

“Only 56 per cent of Kenyans have reliable access to clean water and 70 per cent have access to sanitation,” said President Kenyatta.

“African governments must work even harder if they are to attain sustainable access to clean water that their people rightfully deserve,” added Mr Kenyatta, while addressing the delegates at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.

ACCESS TO CLEAN DRINKING WATER

Mr Kenyatta said livelihoods and the security of African countries are threatened by the shortage of water.

Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said during the poverty eradication survey carried out in 2009, 46 per cent of respondents indicated that water was the most crucial aspect to get them out of poverty, and called upon more budgetary allocation to the sector.

The CS said although Kenya had increased its annual budget allocation to the water and sanitation sector from $5 million (Sh500 million) to $450 million (Sh45 billion) in less than 10 years, it was still not enough.

He said more than 20 million people still did not have access to clean drinking water, while more than 10 million had no access to basic sanitation.