Improving the lives of rural Kenyan women through improved water access

After years of off-and-on droughts and with the specter of continued climate change looming, Kenya faces an enormous challenge in providing access to water to its citizens.  Many rural and poor urban communities do not have access to clean, safe water.  One reason for this: large parts of the country are arid or semi-arid, and only 9.7% of the land is considered arable. Only 54% of rural Kenyans—many of whom live in the drylands—have access to an improved water source, while 84% of urban Kenyans enjoy access to an improved water source. Although water scarcity affects Kenyans across gender and socioeconomic divisions, water scarcity uniquely harms women and girls.   Women and girls bear the burden of looking for water sources for their families, walking long distances to often find only unclean and unsafe water.  In the drylands, especially during droughts, the time that women and girls spend gathering water crowds out time available for education, starting businesses, and other activities that can improve their and their families’ lives.  For girls who are fortunate enough to attend school regularly, a lack of clean water and efficient latrines in schools make it difficult for girls to use the facilities, especially during their menstrual period.  Such unsanitary conditions cause these girls to miss school and may increase the probability of their leaving school early. Women and girls also put their health at risk when fetching water that is contaminated with parasites.  To make matters worse, their families contract water-borne diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid and diarrhea from consuming this water.  In families already suffering from poverty, a serious illness can mean that children (particularly girls) must drop out of school to take care of sick family members or work to support their families.   […]

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