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Beyond Water Point Mapping: getting the picture right for public decision-making in Kenya

EScGD assisted Local Government Authorities (LGAs) in Kenya in their efforts to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Our approach rests upon two methodologies: first, we adopt the much-credited Water Point Mapping (WPM), yet we extend it further. Thus, our team of researchers assesses not only how many water points are operative; we also look at the bacteriological quality of the water, the capacities of the communities for operation and maintenance, and the practices of sanitation and hygiene around the water points – we randomly select a reduced sample of households for this purpose -. Second, we transform our datasets into synthetic indexes, such as the WASH Poverty Index, and district-level water-poverty maps.

Kenia1.pngKenia2.jpgPut together, both tools allow local and national policymakers to prioritize and develop the best strategies to redress the low levels of access. Lack of access to WASH in the vicinities of lakes in Kenya stems from different factors. In the first place, traditional water sources cannot cope to sustain pastoralist and peasant communities. However, a dearth of community-operated water points is hardly able to represent an alternative. Thus, in Lake Turkana water points beset by decades of governmental neglect are strained by the growing pressures of cattle rearing and human settlements. Around Lake Victoria, the situation appears only slightly different. As a consequence, lacustrine dwellers across Kenya see themselves compelled to craft innovative coping strategies to preserve their health.  

It is imperative that policymakers get the picture right. This principle has guided our work in Kenya since 2010. In that year, EScGD provided technical assistance to UNICEF in the implementation of a baseline survey for the Dutch funded WASH programme in 22 rural districts. The survey was mainly household-based (5,050 households surveyed in 301 clusters), and sampling design was coherent with methodological principles implemented in similar surveys (e.g. the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, MICS, proposed by UNICEF). In every visited household, service level was captured through a structured questionnaire administered to primary care-givers and direct observation. 


A methodological improvement in data collection consisted of the combination of an enhanced Water Point Mapping with a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), which provided a more complete picture of WASH issues at community level. Equipped with this tool in 2011 we assisted UNICEF in estimating the condition of WASH in the Homa Bay and Suma districts. 1,157 households were interviewed and 187 improved waterpoints audited throughout Homa Bay; in the Suba District, the sample included 1,215 households and 241 water sources. We were able to achieve representative estimates at the lowest administrative level (location) by using stratified sampling – i.e. selecting the sample of households from each stratum – instead of cluster sampling – i.e. selecting the sample from a reduced number of strata. Additionally, we also represented necessities in the area in an array of maps put at the disposition of District Water Officers and UNICEF experts.

Our late development is the multidimensional WASH Poverty Index – superseding our own previous proposal, the Enhanced Water Poverty Index. The WASH Poverty Index builds upon five dimensions of the Water Poverty Index created by Sullivan – i.e. physical availability, access, capacity to sustain, uses, and environmental factors – in order to elaborate three not-aggregated composites – i.e. Water Supply Index, Hygiene Index, and Sanitation Poverty Index. Whilst drawing inspiration from widespread methodologies, we also developed an index that offers a precise picture of WASH requirements with simple and cost-effective methods. We continue to refine the WASH Poverty Index by integrating a rights perspective when defining the water, sanitation and hygiene dimensions. By developing a syncretic index we hope to contribute to equip the often under-resourced local authorities with simple yet powerful representations of the needs in their districts.

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