Sanitation improvements on Rusinga Island

Rusinga Island, on the shore of Lake Victoria, is off the beaten path for development and in a very poor region of Nyanza Province, Kenya. The people in lakeshore beach villages rely on fishing for their meagre incomes and the population of the villages fluctuates with the season. Declining fish stocks in Lake Victoria and lowering sale prices for their catch has made living conditions difficult for these people.

Kaswanga Beach - Rusinga Island, Kenya

Kaswanga Beach – Rusinga Island, Kenya

The CanAssist African Relief Trust has been looking to improve sanitation in four of these lakeside commnities. The villages may have a population of between 100 and 400 inhabitants throughout the year and have had no toilets or washing facilities. Bathing has been done in the lake where there was no privacy and near the same region where household water was drawn for both cleaning and even drinking. The fields near the village were makeshift night toilets and became both contaminated and a health hazard. When it rained, fecal contamination was washed into the lake close to the bathing/water retrieval areas. This, of course, provided a significant health hazard for diarrheal diseases like typhoid and cholera.

CanAssist has been working through the Badilisha Ecovillage Foundation on the island to improve this situation.

VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit) latrines and a washing room at the Kaswanga Beach community.

VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit) latrines and a washing room at the Kaswanga Beach community.

We  built latrines at four of these villages around the island. Although four stalls may not really seem adequate to serve the population of the village, these are four more than zero and the communities are grateful for their addition. The fields adjacent to the villages are much cleaner. Fecal contamination no longer is washed into the lake near the village where water for drinking, washing and cleaning is gathered.

The communities have also asked for washing facilities so that they can have some privacy when cleaning themselves and also discourage contamination of their water supply with detergents and soaps. Last year, assisted by a specific donation from the Mission Committee of St.Peter’s Cathedral in London, Ontario, CanAssist built two washing rooms with cement floors, four private stalls with doors and drainage into a grey-water underground pit.

I visited the Kaswanga Village in February (see the movie trailer here! and was assured that these improvements, which may seem rudimentary and even crude to the North American reader, were making a grand difference to the people who live there.

The treasurer of the Beach Management Unit smiled and added ” If we could get a water pump to bring water from the lake to a raised tank near the washing facility it would be warmed in the sun and we could have warm showers.”

Some things that we just take for granted are deemed luxuries to many African villagers.

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