The U.S. ambassador to Kenya announced Monday that Washington will contribute over $100 million to the East African nation to increase access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services.
Leaders in Nairobi informed the ambassador, Meg Whitman, that the drought in Kenya is at an all-time high and there are “no signs of big rains coming any time soon.”
The spokesperson claimed that over the course of five years, the U.S. will provide Kenya with the funding under its Global Water Strategy High Priority Country Plan.
“As I have traveled around Kenya, I ask government officials and community members, what are your priorities? And the number one priority almost universally is water,” Whitman said.
“The linkages between water and a changing climate are critical clear, perhaps clearer than they have been ever before,” she added.
Whitman added that the American government aims to provide better water services for at least 1.6 million people and better sanitation for a million additional individuals.
“As we’ve observed here in Kenya, in the Horn of Africa, and in countries spanning almost every continent, water scarcity also often serves as a cause or accelerator of conflict,” she said.
“Access to water can serve as a weapon of war as we have seen in Ukraine where water infrastructure has been destroyed, leaving innocent civilians without essential services,” she added.
Alice Wahome, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for water, sanitation, and irrigation, said nationwide demands for clean water are expected to grow and called on innovators to come up with a solution to address the crisis.
“The demand for water is expected to grow exponentially in our country over the next 15 years. Even if we invest heavily in water infrastructure it will be very difficult for supply to keep pace with the demand,” Wahome said.
“Therefore, we need innovative approaches for supply and demand management options,” she added.
Susan Koki Mutua, a public health officer, said limited access to water has left many locals living in unhygienic places.
“About 6 million Kenyans have no access to any form of sanitation facilities and practice total open defecation. About 24 million use unimproved sanitation facilities or share latrines,” Mutua said.
Mutua also said poor sanitation is linked to growing malnutrition rates in Kenya.
“Malnutrition and stunted growth are on the rise in many countries and are mainly attributed to poor sanitation and hygiene as one of the underlying risk factors,” she said.
“Every year many countries are reporting cholera outbreaks, as we are right now in about 16 counties,” she added.
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