Eunice Onyango from Lukusi village in Kakamega County learned the health benefits of using a latrine through a community forum. “All along, I believed that defecating in faraway bushes was safe especially because it was a normal occurrence in the village,” she said. The community forums organized by USAID’s Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) Project opened Eunice’s eyes to the benefits of improved hygiene and sanitation practices such as using a latrine and handwashing.
“I immediately started to construct a household latrine to replace the first one that collapsed after heavy rains. I also constructed a handwashing station next to it,” explains Eunice. Through community health volunteers (CHVs) and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, KIWASH supports communities in seven counties to adopt and maintain improved sanitation and hygiene practices. The communities benefit from behavior change messages on handwashing, hygienic disposal of feces, water treatment and the safe storage of water.
KIWASH interventions are bearing fruit by promoting healthy communities. To date in Kakamega County, KIWASH has worked in more than 225 villages to promote a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) strategy, a process that entails increasing communities’ interests in ending open defecation by encouraging the construction of latrines. The CLTS strategy emphasizes the health benefits of improved hygienic practices as well as cultural barriers to latrine use. As a result of the CLTS strategy, 135 villages have been certified as open defecation free. This translates to at least 12,400 people accessing basic sanitation.
Catherine Juma from Malava Sub-County is a mother of three children. She is excited about the health changes in her family. “I found the frequent visits to the hospital for diarrhea or typhoid very expensive and time consuming. I no longer incur medical expenses for hygiene-related diseases. I have constructed a permanent toilet and now practice frequent handwashing together with my children,” she states proudly.
To ensure that families like Eunice and Catherine’s maintain these improved hygienic behaviors, KIWASH has trained 66 CHVs in Kakamega County on techniques and behavior change messaging at the household and community levels. The CHVs maintain connections with the communities to reinforce key messages about the benefits of improved sanitation and hygiene. These efforts in turn led to increased consumer demand for improved sanitation.
Introducing improved and affordable sanitation technologies
Our work in community-led total sanitation (CLTS) has contributed immensely in achieving open-defecation-free status for 992 villages across seven counties. Yet there is still a need to strengthen the supply chain of improved and affordable sanitation technologies in order to prevent a relapse. Working with stakeholders, KIWASH market-tested a range of products that can effectively respond to the demand for improved sanitation in communities—the SATO pan and SAFI latrine were selected as the most feasible in terms of affordability, durability, availability, and suitability for soil conditions. The SATO (short for Safe Toilet) pan has a unique self-sealing trap door that closes quickly, seals tightly, and can be fitted to an existing latrine, and the SAFI (Kiswahili for “clean”) latrine has concrete walls designed to withstand soil pressure and prevent structures from collapsing.
KIWASH also introduced a sanitation revolving fund model that enabled local entrepreneurs to secure capital investment for SATO retail businesses. Organized community groups, composed largely of project-trained Community Health Volunteers (CHVs), raise capital from group savings, interest on small loans, matching grants, or profits from the sale of SATO products. KIWASH is now seeking broader participation from stakeholders because of the proven potential for the market to grow in rural areas with poor sanitation coverage. To deepen the uptake of improved sanitation services in these areas, it is necessary to continue to work simultaneously with county governments while expanding the number of community groups and artisans we engage in order to substantially develop the sanitation market in Kenya.