SANITATION AND SDGS

Safe and inclusive sanitation key to climate-resilience cities

With increased rural-urban migration, things are only getting more challenging for Kenya’s cities

In Summary

• By 2030, Kenya envisions that everyone will have access to safe and improved sanitation, which is in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

• This year’s World Toilet Day focused on sustainable sanitation and climate change.

A child jumps across raw sewage in Nairobi’s Kibera slums.
A child jumps across raw sewage in Nairobi’s Kibera slums.
Image: FILE

On November 19 every year, the world celebrates toilets, acknowledging that access to these facilities and the safe disposal of waste is a human right.

By 2030, Kenya envisions that everyone will have access to safe and improved sanitation, which is in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This year’s World Toilet Day focused on sustainable sanitation and climate change. These are two intersecting critical issues for Kenya: It is estimated that Kenya will lose 2.6 per cent of its annual GDP due to the consequences of climate change by 2030. The country already loses 1-2 per cent due to sanitation-related disease.

With increased rural-urban migration, things are only getting more challenging for Kenya’s cities such as Nairobi and Kisumu, where most people are living in densely-populated informal settlements.

Climate change has led to extreme weather patterns that include increased temperatures, unpredictable rainfall patterns and flooding, often displacing people from their homes in informal settlements are.

For sanitation, it’s a day-to-day challenge with over ⅔ of residents effectively living in their waste, it ends up untreated back to where people live and into Nairobi River and Lake Victoria.

How then can our cities develop sustainable sanitation solutions as one way to build resilience in response to the emerging threats associated with climate change? The answer lies in implementing systems that adequately address the sanitation full value chain. That is ensuring urban residents have access to a toilet that safely contains all the waste generated, and building systems that safely and sustainably remove all the waste and transports it for treatment and safe disposal or reuse.

WASH experts in the public and private sectors must collaborate with other government stakeholders to build strong systems that manage sanitation waste safely. At the same time, supporting and promoting innovative solutions that accelerate city-wide inclusive sanitation is key.

Container–based sanitation for urban non–sewered areas is one of them. The World Bank endorses it as a feasible solution in densely populated areas, resilient in water-scarce cities such as Nairobi and hygienically safe because of its model that takes the full value chain approach.

In Nairobi’s informal settlements, Sanergy delivers this solution through sanitation units called Fresh Life Toilets. Launched in 2011, Sanergy has built a network of over 3,000 sanitation units distributed across 11 slums and serve over 100,000 people every day.

Annually, it safely removes 12,000mT of waste, which is treated and upcycled to valuable agricultural inputs and clean energy. Cumulatively, this solution helps to off-set about 50,000T CO2e per year.

Sanergy is building partnerships with national and county governments to scale this solution. In Kisumu, they have partnered with Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company and together aim to reach an additional 20,000 people next year.

Delivering safely managed sanitation to everyone, everywhere is critical — it supports the health and well–being of everyone, boosts the economy and also builds cities’ resilience to climate change. In order to accelerate reach, WASH experts, the government, and the private sector need to collaborate towards building and implementing efficient systems that serve growing cities of today.  

Joanne Kiarie is the director of Government Affairs and Policy, Sanergy