Water and Waste

Meeting two needs in African cities

According to WHO/UNICEF, whilst 91.8% of urban households in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) had access to piped or protected groundwater (i.e. boreholes and protected wells/springs) in 2015, only 46.2% had safely managed water available when needed. 

An estimated 116 million African households with piped water suffer regular supply disruptions [1].

Consequently, there has been a rapid growth in packaged water (i.e. water sold in bottles or plastic bags) consumption globally, with 20% or more people using bottled water as their main source in fifteen countries globally in 2010-16 [2]

In several West African countries (see graphic below), consumption of sachet water (water sold in 500ml plastic bags) is growing rapidly and widespread.

Percentage of urban households reporting packaged water as their main drinking-water source in selected East and West African countries
(source: WHO/UNICEF Joint monitoring programme; data points represent national household surveys or censuses)

In contrast, in much of east Africa, where Rwanda, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania have banned plastic bags [3], there is lower packaged water consumption and water is commonly sold in jerry-cans or other reusable plastic vessels.  We have chosen our project study sites – Greater Accra in Ghana and Kisumu in Kenya – to reflect these contrasting situations. 

Our team have worked in both sites for decades. Prof. Hill previously led two waves of the Women’s Health Survey in Accra, whilst Mr. Okotto-Okotto has nearly two decades’ experience of mapping water and sanitation services in off-grid neighbourhoods of Kisumu.

Further reading about the study sites on these related pages: