How US-funded water strategy will benefit Kenya

USAID has been offering aid to Kenya for accessibility of clean water for domestic use, among other types of assistance. PHOTO/USAID.
USAID has been offering aid to Kenya for accessibility of clean water for domestic use, among other types of assistance. PHOTO/USAID.
  • Global water strategy for Kenya launched earlier this week.
  • USAID 2030 goal is to have three-quarters of the global population with access to safe drinking water.
  • The agency works with Water Service Providers and private sanitation service providers in the country to help them access capital for sustainable, climate-resilient water and sanitation infrastructure

The United States, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has launched the US Government Global Water Strategy High Priority Country Plan for Kenya.

The new plan is worth more than $100 million and will majorly focus on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) activities.

The new plan seeks to enhance clean water and sanitation facilities in various parts of Kenya over the next five years.

The USAID’s investments will see an increase in access to basic or improved water services for 1.6 million people and provide primary or improved sanitation to 1 million Kenyans while at the same time mobilizing roughly $130 million for the critical WASH sector.

Launching the water plan

Speaking on Monday, March 20, 2023, when she officiated the launch of the plan in Nairobi, US Ambassador to Kenya Margaret Whitman said she has had a first-hand experience of the impact that water security and access to sanitation have on people’s lives. 

“The issue of water security will remain a challenge in Kenya and around the world for the foreseeable future. By working together, we will find solutions,” said Ambassador Whitman.

According to USAID, the challenges of providing sustainable and affordable water and sanitation services are particularly significant for communities in Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) areas and the growing number of informal settlements. 

“The high variability in rainfall across the country over the past three years has led to frequent and prolonged droughts and floods in some areas, exacerbating the challenges of water scarcity. Climate change is predicted to worsen this situation,” USAID said in a statement.

The agency says thatreliable access to safe water and sanitation saves lives, improves livelihoods, and makes communities more resilient. 

“Investments in water security, sanitation and hygiene are critical for progress in nearly all aspects of global development. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have access to safe drinking water, safely managed sanitation services, and basic hygiene services than ever before,” the USAID statement reads in part.

Global push for WASH access

USAID says it will work with other organizations, governments, and communities to address the global water crisis, as an additional $600 million is needed annually to reach universal WASH coverage by 2030.

USAID says it is working with governments, other local stakeholders, and partners to make it possible to achieve the milestone.

By 2030, USAID seeks to realize its global goal of ensuring that at least three in four people have access to safe drinking water in their homes.

At the same time, it also seeks to achieve the milestone of ensuring that one in two people has access to safely managed sanitation services and that two in three people have essential hygiene services, including soap and water at home.

Towards that, USAID is helping partner countries plan, finance, and deliver safe water and sanitation services for the neediest while sustainably managing water resources. 

And in support of the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security and the US Government Global Water Strategy, USAID works on programming, monitoring, and reporting activities and outcomes across the strategy’s four strategic objectives to strengthen water and sanitation sector governance, finance, institutions, and markets; 

increase equitable access to safe, sustainable, and climate-resilient water and sanitation services and adoption of key hygiene behaviors; improve climate-resilient conservation and management of freshwater resources and associated ecosystems; and anticipate and reduce conflict and fragility related to water.

Notable strides

In the financial year 2020, USAID provided $450 million to support water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) activities in 41 countries. 

Out of the amount, USAID was able to mobilize more than $216 million outside of US taxpayer funding. 

The USAID funding and support in 2020 strengthened 289 water and sanitation institutions across the globe. 

US Ambassador to Kenya, Margaret Whitman, announces the joint Kenya WASH Country Plan with more than $100 Million in US Government investment over 5 years. Photo/USAID

Through the funding, nearly 3.9 million people gained access to sustainable water services, with 68 percent of those gaining access for the first time.

Another 4.1 million people gained access to sustainable sanitation services, with 90 percent of them gaining access for the first time.

Women and girls comprised 51 percent of those who gained access to sustainable water and sanitation services through USAID-funded projects in 2020.

Since 2008, USAID has helped 59.5 million people gain sustainable access to water services and 44.6 million people gain sustainable access to sanitation services globally.

According to USAID, only 62% of Kenyans have access to improved drinking water with only 26% of the total population having access to improved sanitation. 

Working in partnership with the government of Kenya, USAID integrates water and sanitation programs with programs focused on nutrition, agriculture, and health. 

The agency partners with the government, the private sector, and civil society to strengthen the systems that ensure sufficient water and sanitation service delivery to improve the health and well-being of Kenyans with a deep focus on market-driven approaches that increase access to water and sanitation services while protecting watersheds and water resources. 

Kenya water status

According to USAID, Kenya is classified among the most water-scarce countries in the world. 

The agency notes that access to safe water and improved sanitation is a challenge in many Kenyan rural and urban setups.

USAID says that the depletion of natural resources and persistent and long drought spells are making the critical commodity less available for agricultural and domestic use, especially in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions. 

The Government of Kenya has set an ambitious target of universal access to WASH services by 2030. 

Bridging the gap

For Kenya to realize her ambitious goal by 2030, USAID estimates that some $12.9 billion in WASH investments will be needed to expand and improve WASH services. 

Kenya’s total annual budget allocation for water, sanitation, and hygiene is $5.6 billion, leaving a deficit of $7 billion yearly.

To bridge this gap, USAID, through its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Finance (WASH-FIN) program, is helping explore new sources of market finance to complement funding from traditional sources such as transfers, taxes, and tariffs. 

Under the WASH-FIN project, USAID works with Water Service Providers (WSPs) and private sanitation service providers in the country to help them access capital for sustainable, climate-resilient water and sanitation infrastructure. 

WASH-FIN achieves this by partnering with national and county governments, development partners, local financial institutions, and other stakeholders.

In the 2021 financial year alone, USAID mobilized over $16.5 million in new funding to aid different water and sanitation sectors in Kenya with almost $2 million in investments being mobilized for climate change adaptation projects.

In 2021, USAID, through its initiatives, enabled a total of 23,952 people to gain access to basic sanitation services and another 7,827 Kenyans to access basic drinking water services.

In the same period, it supported 36 WSPs to prepare financial recovery plans, helping them access to credit of $3.9M to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Water Principal Secretary Paul Rono, Kenya’s Ministry of water is in the process of reviewing the Water Act of 2016 to undertake necessary legal and regulatory amendments that will help operationalize the national public water works and ensure bulk investments are undertaken through the public-private partnership (PPP) framework.

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Rono acknowledges that the burden of water and sanitation provision is huge and can only be gapped through partnerships.

The financial gap, he noted, currently stands at approximately KSh100 billion annually.

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Jackson Okata is a freelance journalist with experience in both broadcast, print and online journalism. His areas of interest are Climate Change, Environment, Agribusiness, Technology, and Gender Empowerment. His contact:


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