DEPLORABLE CONDITIONS

Census 2019 reveals poor quality life for majority

Only 10 per cent of Kenya’s households have access to piped water in their dwelling houses.

In Summary

• The quality of housing for most Kenyans is deplorable.

• We must expand access to clean water for rural households.

DEPRIVATION: Nyalenda slum in Kisumu town
DEPRIVATION: Nyalenda slum in Kisumu town
Image: FILE

In what is now a drip-drip style, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics has released some more data from the 2019 population and housing census.

The data shows ours is a very youthful and rural population.

It also shows about 77 per cent of our population is aged between 0 and 35 years. An estimated 69 per cent of Kenya’s population lives in rural areas. Compared to the 2009 population and housing census, the proportion of the urban population has fallen by about one per cent according to the 2019 data.

 

The 2019 Census further reveals that 48 per cent of Kenya’s urban population lives in Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado and Machakos. Moreover, just eight cities and towns —Nairobi, Kiambu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kajiado, Uasin Gishu, Kisumu and Machakos — account for 70 per cent of the total urban population.

The census reveals unflattering data about the quality of life of most Kenyans —the quality of housing, source of drinking water, source of cooking fuel. About 41 per cent of rural houses have walls built from mud and cow dung. This proportion ranges between 50 per cent and 80 per cent in most counties in Coast, the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza. Similarly, mud, sand and cow dung were the dominant material used to construct floors for 43 per cent of main dwelling units.

While 88.4 per cent of urban households use electricity as their main source of lighting, only 26 per cent of those in rural areas use it, compared to 30 per cent of households using solar.

Only 10 per cent of Kenya’s households have access to piped water in their dwelling houses. About 14 per cent had access to piped water from a nearby standpipe. According to the Kenya Demographic and Household Survey 2014, about 40 per cent of rural households spend more than 30 minutes to find water.

Moreover, only 9.7 per cent had access to a sewer. Just 6.3 per cent of the households reported that county authorities collected their solid waste. Most Kenyans, 72 per cent, burn, bury or compost domestic solid waste.

About 92 per cent of rural households reported using wood products (charcoal and firewood) as their main source of cooking fuel. Only 26 per cent of rural households reported using electricity as the main source of lighting. The proportion of the population using Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) was estimated at 23.9 per cent. This represents a dramatic increase from just five per cent in 2009.

While the census data reveals relative social and economic progress in the last 10 years, we still have work to do. The quality of housing for most Kenyans is deplorable. We must expand access to clean water for rural households. Similarly, there is an opportunity to ramp up investments in solar technology to expand access to clean sources of energy, especially for cooking and lighting.

 

The deplorable quality of life presents an opportunity for county governments to step up investments in housing, water and sanitation, clean energy and solid waste management. We can do better for the majority.

Awiti is Vice Provost at Aga Khan University. The views expressed are the writer’s