OPINION: Where is the water for women at the grassroots to wash their hands?

OPINION: Where is the water for women at the grassroots to wash their hands?

What a timing for the 2020 World Waters Day in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic!

Even the world’s more economically developed countries have not been spared.

To prevent contracting coronavirus, the Kenyan Government has announced strict measures for the public; in particular, washing hands regularly.

But how many times have we heard the phrase ‘wash your hand with water and soap’?

We have constantly been told that this is the most effective and cheapest form of infection control.

But even as we fight against the COVID-19 disease, we need to ask ourselves and the government, where is this water?

How cheap is this water? How many Kenyans and specifically women at the grassroots level have access to quality water?

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) joint monitoring programme report (2019) by the World Health Organization and UNICEF found that only 59% of Kenyans have access to basic water services .

What hope do the remaining 41% have in light of the COVID-19 disease?

In some areas in Kenya, women at the grassroots level have to walk several kilometers to fetch water.

In Nairobi, the city is always thirsty, so to speak: most of the residents who live in highly populated estates and slums don’t have constant supply of clean water.

This exposes them to high risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

This still applies to most rural areas of Kenya which experience lack of effective and constant supply of safe and clean water.

The COVID-19 disease has further compounded the care burden of women because traditionally, they bear the burden of sourcing for water and taking care of the sick.

If women are unable to access clean and quality water, the situation will become dire for women, families and society in general.

Water and sanitation services are provided for in Chapter Four (Bill of Rights), Section 43 (1d) of the Constitution of Kenya.

It states that “every person has the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities”.

The Kenya Vision 2030 plan strives to ensure the availability and access to water and improved sanitation for all.

However this initiative has been curtailed by corruption cartels that are apparently aided by the same political leaders charged to deliver Vision 2030.

Case in point is the Arror and Kimwarer dam scandal and the Galana Kulalu irrigation project.

Even as the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic continues to occupy the minds of every Kenyan, on World Water Day, we call upon the national and county government to put in radical and extra ordinary measures to ensure that women at the grassroots level in all the 47 counties have constant access to water to at the very least, be able to wash their hands (with soap) within their households!

Fridah Githuku is the Executive Director of GROOTS Kenya

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