Unsafe water, lack of basic sanitation and poor hygiene practices are major causes of diarrhoeal diseases in Africa, resulting in around 1,700 deaths every day.

Millions of people live in informal settlements, dependent on filthy pit latrines and with open drains coursing through narrow alleys.

It’s impossible to live a healthy life in such an environment.

But in the fight against diarrhoea, sewer networks are an under-appreciated but vital tool, ensuring harmful waste can be safely moved out of communities.

Pigs drinking from an open sewer in Githima, contributing to the spread of disease around the community

In Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth largest city, The Coca-Cola Foundation is helping to increase the availability of this critical infrastructure.

Under the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), Coca-Cola is working with Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) to help the city utility, Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company (NAWASSCO), extend sewers into the city’s vulnerable communities.

NAWASSCO working on an extension to the sewer network in Githima

To date, over 25,000 low-income residents across Nakuru have benefitted from new sewer connections and improved toilets.

Mary, a resident of Githima known locally as Mama Karugu, had been dependent on a pit latrine for sanitation but one night last year, her poorly built toilet collapsed into the pit. This could have been deadly if someone had been using the toilet at the time. “If I was inside, I would have sunk with it,” recalls Mama Karugu.

The upgraded facility provided by the project is improving her health and helping her business. “As a landlord, I no longer worry about retaining my tenants because of poor sanitaiton facilities,” she says. “It really excites me that NAWASSCO handles the waste for me through the network. It's good to move with the times!”

Mama Karugu, a resident and landlady in Githima

Officials in Nakuru recognise how sewer connections can improve health.

“Poor sanitation is a concern for the County Government of Nakuru as it negatively impacts on the county's economy,” says Samuel King’ori, the Nakuru County Chief Officer of Public Health. “No investor will ever invest in a dirty city: health is wealth.”

Samuel King'ori, Nakuru County Chief Officer of Public Health inspecting sanitation facilities in Githima

Across Kenyan cities, The Coca-Cola Foundation’s RAIN project is enabling 34 kilometres of tertiary water pipeline and 2.6 kilometres of new sewer network to be laid, helping thousands of residents to benefit from greater dignity and healthier lives.

The sewer extensions form part of a broader programme with WSUP to improve access to clean water and safe sanitation for 340,000 people in Kenya. Coca-Cola and WSUP have been collaborating through RAIN in Africa since 2011 and by 2020, the partnership will have benefitted at least 1.5 million people across the continent.