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ELECTION 2022

Local solution that won WaterFund two UN awards in a row

NATIONAL
By Jacob Ng'etich | Dec 29th 2021 | 5 min read
Ambassador Mary Khimulu, Chairlady Water Fund Board of Trustees, received the award on behalf of WaterFund. [Courtesy]

For the second time in a row, a local solution to sanitation challenges and perennial shortage of clean water in Kenya's urban areas has won global admiration.

The programme that began six years ago and involves building and upgrading of toilets and construction of small scale decentralised facilities to treat human waste from dry and wet toilets through mechanical and biological treatment, earned the WaterFund another global award.

WaterFund is now a recipient of the prestigious 2021 United Nations Public Service Awards, after its Output-Based Aid Programme was selected as one of the winners under category of “Enhancing the effectiveness of public institutions to reach the SDGs.”

The up-scaling of basic sanitation for urban poor (UBSUP), implemented by the WaterFund emerged among top 10 institutions in the prestigious 2019 United Nations public service annual award.

The 2021 United Nations Public Service Awards ceremony took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from December 18, 2021, under the theme “Innovating the Future Public Service: New Government Models for a New Era to Reach the Sustainable Development Goals.” 

It emerged top in the category of “Delivering Inclusive and Equitable Service To Leave No one Behind.” This award now places UBSUP in a better position for enhanced funding by donors.

The programme provides subsidy to landlords with Sh20,000 for a new toilet and Sh15,000 for rehabilitated toilets in urban areas where the poor live.

At hand to receive the award on behalf of the WaterFund was Ambassador Mary Khimulu, Chairlady WaterFund board.

The Kenya delegation included Cabinet Secretaries Margaret Kobia (Public Services and Gender) and Joe Mucheru (ICT) and Sidian Bank, one of the sponsors of WaterFund, was represented by Loice Mwangi, the bank’s Manager, Branches.

The United Nations Public Service Awards is the most prestigious international recognition of excellence in public service.

It rewards creative achievements and contributions of public service institutions that lead to a more effective and responsive public administration in countries worldwide.

Through an annual competition, the UN Public Service Awards promotes the role, professionalism and visibility of public service.

The UN Public Service Day intends to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community; highlight the contribution of public service in the development process; recognize the work of public servants, and encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector.

Since the first Awards Ceremony in 2003, the United Nations has received an increasing number of submissions from all around the world.

While the announcement of the 2021 winners was planned in June, the UN Public Service Award Ceremony (UNPSA) was rescheduled for December 2021 in the United Arab Emirates due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Water Fund's acclaim came from its the construction of a faecal sludge treatment facility where human waste is processed into cooking granules and clean water from the treatment released into the rivers that won Water Fund the prestigious award. Dubbed DTF (Decentralised Treatment Facility), the system treats the faecal sludge coming from latrines and septic tanks at a decentralised level.

“The DTF is a modular facility with a standard design that can treat up to 23m3 daily. It comprises of six modules that provide biological anaerobic treatment and run by gravity (no energy or chemical input),” said Shaiye.

The construction of a DTF requires about half an acre of land and utilises about Sh10 million, which makes it an innovative idea to address sanitation and sewerage issues in areas without a conventional sewerage system.

Shaiye said UBSUP’s objectives were to provide sustainable sanitation through provision of better toilets and safe water. “About 250,000 people have since been reached, of the targeted 400,000,” he said.

WaterFund through 20 water service providers across the country is implementing the programme that includes construction of cheap and affordable sewerage systems that serves between 10,000 to 30,000 residents in small towns.

The Ceremony was co-organised by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) through its Division for Public Institutions and Digital Government (DPIDG) and the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) of the Government of the United Arab Emirates.

Previous UNPSA winners from Kenya are Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme in the year 2018 and Huduma Kenya Programme under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs in the year 2015.

Every year UNDESA makes calls for proposals requesting for submissions of projects that promote and support innovation and excellence in the public service.

The 2019 UNPSA were awarded to public institutions that distinguished themselves various categories.

The United Nations Public Service Awards (UNPSA) promotes and rewards innovation and excellence in public services in support of the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the principle of ‘leave no one behind’.

The award is organised by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

The significance of the award is to promote the role, professionalism and visibility of public service for the realisation of the 2030 Agenda.

The Water Sector Trust Fund (WaterFund) implemented the Kenya Water and Sanitation Output-Based Aid (OBA) Fund for Low-Income Areas (“the project”).

The Project is incentivising Kenyan Water Service Providers (WSPs) to extend water and sanitation services to low-income areas using commercial loans from domestic lenders on market terms.

The programme is supported by World Bank, with funds from Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Locally, Water Service Providers were provided with loans from Sidian Bank, Family Bank and Co-operative Bank. Water Service Providers (WSPs) also received technical assistance to support sub-project preparation and implementation, including development of bankable proposals to secure commercial loans.

The project provided a sh1.3billion (US$11.10 million grant to the Government of Kenya (GoK), which was signed on September 5, 2014. A subsidiary agreement was executed between GoK and WaterFund to implement the project.

 The initiative has proven cost effective, with a per-capita cost of less than US$50, including construction of 15,490 toilets and over seven decentralised treatment facilities. Water Trust CEO Ismail Shaiye said the subsidy can only be paid after the landlords and house owners have completed the toilets and if they meet the given standards.

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