Kenya Sanitation Alliance launched by Government and UNICEF, targeting 15 counties with highest rates of open defecation

The Alliance will aim to eliminate open defecation in Kenya by 2025

17 November 2021
Boy walks towards toilet

Nairobi, 17 November 2021 - A pioneering drive designed to eliminate open defecation in Kenya by 2025 has been launched by the Government, UNICEF and partners. The Kenya Sanitation Alliance is led by the Ministries of Health and Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation, together with the governments of 15 counties with the highest rates of open defecation. It is funded by the Government of Japan and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“I would like to thank UNICEF and the Governments of Japan and the US for supporting this important new initiative in Kenya,” Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe said. “Open defecation has devastating consequences for public health – causing disease and death, especially among young children. If we end this practice, we will save lives and remove a barrier to education and economic opportunity.”

Kenya is one of 26 countries globally that are responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s open defecation. According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, almost 85 per cent of this open defecation in Kenya takes place in 15 counties: Baringo, Garissa, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kilifi, Kwale, Mandera, Marsabit, Narok, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir, and West Pokot.

The Kenya Sanitation Alliance therefore concentrates on involving decision-makers from these 15 most affected counties to drive forward action, review progress through a national mechanism and mobilise additional domestic resources.

“The Government of Japan, in collaboration with UNICEF, is working on the improvement of sanitation in Kenya through the Sanitation for Universal Health Coverage project.” Deputy Head of Mission, the Embassy of Japan, Yasuhisa Kitagawa said. “ We are determined to continue in our support of this project which seeks to end open defecation through partnerships with UNICEF and other partners as well as involving both the public and private sectors within Kenya.”

“Kenya is, and continues to be, a WASH priority country for the U.S. Government. The U.S. Global Water Strategy and corresponding USAID Development Plan aim for a world where all people have safe and sustainable access to household sanitation.” USAID Mission Director in Kenya, Mark Andrew Meassick said.

Open defecation has particularly devastating effects on the health of children under the age of five, especially in rural areas where the practice is more prevalent. In Kenya, over 6,600 children under five are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea, of which 80 per cent are attributable to poor water, sanitation and hygiene[1].

“Every child has the right to health and dignity, and eliminating open defecation is a key way to ensure that they enjoy these rights,” said UNICEF Representative to Kenya, Maniza Zaman. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the role of good hygiene – especially handwashing – in preventing the spread of disease. Thanks to the generous support from Japan and the US, we now have a unique opportunity to come together through the Sanitation Alliance and end open defecation in Kenya for good.”

“I commend the Kenya Sanitation Alliance for recognising the vital role that county governments play in ended open defecation,” Council of Governors Chairman Martin Wambora said. “Children and families in Kenya are entitled to proper sanitation and county governments are committed to delivering this, including in the arid and semi-arid land counties.”

The Kenya Sanitation Alliance is also designed to help the country achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation, as well as the Kenya Vision 2030 to transform the country into an industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment.

“This Alliance demonstrates strong political leadership at both the national and county level, which is a critical component to accelerating progress to end open defecation,” Cabinet Secretary for Water, Sanitation and Irrigation Sicily Kanini Kariuki said. “Through this renewed push, I am confident that we can eliminate open defecation in Kenya. Our country deserves nothing less.”

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[1] UNIGME, 2020; Global Burden of Diseases Study, 2018.


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