Description of the project location

Map of Nairobi indicating Kibera in red.


Description of the location

Kibera is situated in Nairobi's SouthWestern Peri-urban zone approximately seven kilometres from the Nairobi City Centre. Kibera as a whole is an informal settlement comprising of ten villages covering approximately 250 hectares of land with an estimated population of about 500,000 people. That gives an average population density of 2000 people per hectare although some villages are more crowded than others. The villages are Lindi, Kisumu Ndogo, Soweto, Makina, Kianda, Mashimoni, Siranga, Gatuikira, Laini Saba and the newly founded Raila village. A visiting group of scientists at a regional workshop organised by NETWAS in 2001had this to say:

"the size of the Kibera informal settlement is the largest in size and worst in the living conditions of the residents in the whole of Africa".

The village is densely populated with 95% of the residents living below poverty line. Most of them are working in the industrial area of the city as casual labourers with an average income of Kshs 45/= per day. The average family of 7 occupy a small room of 10 by 10 feet. There are no street lights. Most of the houses are made of mud and roofed with either corrugated iron sheets or covered with polythene paper.

Political and Policy Aspects

Politically, Kibera is a volatile area because of its history. Residents here are Nubian squatters who were settled on this land after the World War II by the British Colonial government. On the other hand there are the "illegal" local squatters who have been squatting on the land as a means of survival. The official Kenya government position is that this is government land. Till recently, the land tenure policy regarding "illegal" settlements was that the government could not develop or invest on such land. The government has therefore not developed any infrastructure according to its policy on investment which states that this can only be done on legally owned land. This scenario pits the tenants of Kibera against land lords who in most cases do not put up proper water and sanitation facilities in the area to match the rental housing units.

Urban interventions that address the issues of slums have been triggered only by external factors such as land development and speculation, health and safety threats to the wealth owned by external landlords, etc. This has therefore been mainly reactive rather than proactive to emerging problems in the area. Regardless of the case, there is an absence or failure of coordinating mechanisms that set the roles and jurisdiction in the area effectively.

Compounded by lack of a clear policy framework, there aren't effective government programs for meeting the needs of the residents of Kibera informal settlement. Poor water supply and sanitation are among the most serious infrastructure problem. Notable interventions have only been received from other agencies i.e donors, development partners, NGOs. However these efforts are still to a large extent uncoordinated.

Burst pipes in Kibera
Criss cross of water pipes leading to the various water points in Kibera.

Social Aspects

Kibera residents consist of different ethnic communities as alluded to earlier on. Most of them have come to the city to look for sustainable livelihoods. In the event of social conflicts in the area, ethnic reactions tend to flare up especially between the original Nubian community on one hand and other local ethnic groups. Kenya’s water resources crisis carries significant social risks. Growing demand over limited endowment of water generates competition and causes conflicts over water use within the village, posing considerable social risks to the poor and the communities without adequate representation in the location in decision making.

In terms of family pattern, households consist of either single persons with an average family size of 7. Most households are female-headed households as the village is a big source of day domestic workers who work in the middle and high class estates around Nairobi.

Following KWAHO philosophy of gender, KWAHO projects target women for implementation and involvement since it is them who are in charge of water and sanitation issues.

Problem Analysis

The general water and sanitation context of the project location is as follows:

Water Supply

From community needs assessment done in 2002, excreta disposal and water supply was the highest priority. Issues associated with water include, its source, cost, availability and distribution. Access and availability of water is limited. Up to 85% of the households draw water from kiosks (private and community owned) at an average of Ksh 2/= per 20 litre jerrican. The average distance to the nearest Kiosk is 40 metres and consumption ranges from 16-20 litters per person per day. Frequent shortages contribute to an increase in prices, distance walked and time spent. Within Kibera the quality of water decreases significantly hence it is contaminated by infiltration of liquid waste into burst pipes. Therefore there is always high risk of waterborne diseases within the community.

  • Shortages result from rationing by the NCC (Nairobi City Council) and burst pipes. Most burst pipes are made of low quality PVC and laid above the ground surface.
  • The majority of water kiosks are owned by individuals. Although KWAHO has established some which are owned by Community Based Organisations (CBOs).
  • Kibera residents pay for water ten times what is paid by residents of middle and high income areas in Nairobi. When supply is reliable water retails at KSH 2-4 per 20 litre jerry cans. This increases to KSH 5-20 during shortages.
  • Residents, particularly women and children spend valuable time queuing for water. During acute shortages, queuing time may go up to 4hrs. Although availability of water increases at night, the risk of being mugged is also higher.
  • Most pipes supplying water to kiosks are of small diameter. This limits the volume of water available through those outlets.
  • Other reasons for water shortages result from rivalry amongst the water vendors and the high value of steel pipes for thieves.

Some suggestions to improve water supply made by the community were:

  • Use of distribution pipes made of steel with a larger diameter to increase the volume and reliability of water available.
  • Establishment of group water kiosks to increase stability of water prices.
  • Establishment of more water user groups to manage the distribution of water within the community.

Mothers and girls fetch water from a bursted main pipe
Mothers and girls fetch water from a bursted main pipe.

Sanitation, liquid waste and drainage

There are no sewered toilets in Kibera and most of the households have traditional pit latrines. These are inadequate and fill up quickly. Limited access to exhauster services has rendered about 30 percent of latrines unusable.

  • The shortage of pit latrines is brought about by lack of space for new construction and landlords who are unwilling to incur the extra expense. Most of the groups indicated that up to 150 people share a pit latrine.
  • Lack of adequate latrines forces residents to use alternative means of excreta disposal, such as polythene bags referred to as "flying toilets" (wrap and throw method). These are commonly used at night when residents consider it insecure to use latrines outside. Children defecate in small plastic buckets for cooking fat (e.g. Kasuku) which are emptied by the mother either in the next pit latrine or sewer.
  • Lack of exhauster facilities. Efforts to exhaust latrines are complicated by lack of access roads. An experimental exhauster service (Vacu-Tug) by KWAHO used to serve a small portion of the community.
  • 80 percent of the latrines are emptied manually by directing waste water into the drainage channels. Others are simply covered and abandoned.
  • There are few communal latrines in Kibera and availability has been made worse by influential landlords who seized communal latrines built by NGOs for exclusive us by their tenants.

Some community suggestions on actions to improve excreta disposal and management:

  • Improve access to make pit latrines accessible for exhauster services.
  • Landlords should be required to provide adequate latrines for their tenants.

Manually emptying of a pit latrine in Kibera
Manual emptiying of a pit latrine.

The area is prone to water borne diseases. The settlement is large without matching water and sanitation services having been put in place. The landlords of the housing units are not committed to putting in place such facilities due to the fact that land ownership is still an issue in Kibera. The land belongs to the Government.

  • Lack of facilities for draining of waste and storm water. Most streams running through the settlement carry polluted water from all kind of sources, including sewage from bathing, washing clothes and utensils, pit latrine overflow and all other liquid sources. Most of this is received by the Nairobi Dam which lies at the foot of the settlement.
  • Drainage is poor and limited to major roads and paths. The drainage system in the settlement comprises of shallow open natural drains, man made drains and combination of both. Drains are often used as dumping points of solid waste and sludge and in a few cases open channels are used for emptying sewage from latrines.
  • Residents do not like open drains which are easily blocked by solid waste and are health hazards. Blocked drains are source of conflict between neighbours.
  • 54% of households have no bathing facilities. 75% bathe inside their small rooms or in the compound at night.
  • Drinking water is contaminated by infiltration of liquid waste and overflowing latrines into burst pipes.
  • Community members in the lower sections of Kibera are the most seriously affected by flooding. This is caused by a combination of runoff and storm water flowing from the upper villages, and constriction of houses in the flood plain.

Solid waste

There is no regular solid waste collection within the settlement. Most residents dispose off solid waste by dumping it in open drains, along the railway line and in pit latrines. The closest collection point is on the main road outside the settlement.

Manually emptying of a pit latrine in Kibera
Solid waste covers this river running by some latrines.
  • Lack of facilities for garbage disposal leads to haphazard disposal of refuse.
  • Most households burn their garbage.
  • Burning of garbage during dry season is risky especially due to congestion of houses. This also contributes to respiratory aliment. Children also contract other diseases by playing in the dumps.
  • During the wet seasons, solid waste is washed into compounds in low lying areas and blocks the drains.
  • Recycling and composting activities are limited due to mixing of organic and inorganic solid waste.

Some community suggestions on actions to improve water supply:

  • Collection points should be sited in all villages.
  • Residents are willing to pay for private sector garbage collection.
  • NCC or the private garbage collectors should transfer waste to the main NCC dump site on a regular basis.

Health and hygiene

Most health problems are directly or indirectly associated with the quality of water and environmental sanitation. The top four illnesses indicated by the community are malaria, diarrhoea, intestinal worms and vomiting.

There are no public sector health services available in the settlement. Private health service providers are expensive and beyond the reach of most of the residents.


In summary this is what describes Kibera, the area where KWAHO implements its projects:

The community faces serious a multitude of problems such as:

  • There is scarcity of safe water
  • Environmental pollution
  • Housing congestion
  • Infectious diseases
  • Lack of infrastructure
  • Extreme poverty
  • Insecurity

KWAHO's experience of working in Kibera

KWAHO has been involved in the facilitation of the implementation of Water and Sanitation activities in Kibera since 1987. The main objective has been to alleviate poverty and reduce suffering among the disadvantaged people in the informal settlement. Women and children have been targeted as the main disadvantaged group and also the main stakeholders to KWAHO project activities. Specifically, KWAHO has implemented the activities listed below in Kibera under the general umbrella of:

a) Providing water kiosks in the nine villages of Kibera.
b) Promoting health and hygiene education that facilitated reduction of waterborne diseases
c) Assisting Kibera residents in constructing appropriate improved sanitation facilities for themselves.
d) Provide training on the use and care of the installed water and sanitation facilities in the area.
e) Facilitate replication of the water and sanitation facilities to extend the services and cover the entire population.
f) Encouraging income-generating activities (IGAs) related to water and managed by women groups themselves.
g) Providing care and support for senior citizens (the aged) on a feeding program of once a week. By extension the orphans under the care of the aged mentioned here have also been taken care through the feeding program as they accompany the grandparents.
h) Assisted in training of persons on health care, hygiene for the HIV/Aids victims.
i) Has networked with other key players in improvement of informal settlement in Nairobi.

KWAHO impact in the area

The initial contact of KWAHO with Kibera was enabled through funding from UNICEF. Other supporting partners included the German Volunteer Service and the Danish Volunteers and Water Aid, London. HABITAT later extended their aid to the community through KWAHO on the use of the Vacu-Tug (The Exhauster Van for emptying Pit latrines). Activities in the area were along following lines:

a) Through UNICEF funding, KWAHO was able to provide to the Kibera community with twenty-seven water kiosks. Three kiosks were put in each village. The water kiosks are now in dire need of rehabilitation as most of them have broken down over the period.
b) One latrine Exhauster Van was purchased by HABITAT for the community through KWAHO.
c) Each village formed an Afya Group to carry out health and hygiene education, refuse collection and promote safe disposal of garbage and wastewater.
d) Community capacity building, leadership, bookkeeping, organization and management, operation and maintenance training has been carried out to give various groups skills to run and manage the water and sanitation activities.
e)SODIS project to improve the water quality at household leve by solar disinfection of water.
f) Water and Sanitation project in Kisumu Ndogo village and Makina Baptist Primary School.

Advantages of KWAHO

a) The NGO has been in Kibera for long and has developed a good rapport with the communities.
b) The area government officers in the area recognise KWAHO' work in the area.
c) Our project having used appropriate technology and community participatory approaches have become very popular and also an eye opener to the residents of Kibera, besides alleviating their water and sanitation problems.


Bookmark this page

© KWAHO, ,