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Half of all Kenyans lack safe water or sanitation: minister
NAIROBI (AFP) Mar 22, 2005
Around half of Kenya's 32 million people lack access to safe drinking water, the country's water resources minister said Tuesday, adding that the government was reforming the sector to improve its efficiency.

Martha Karua said about 12.6 million people living in rural areas and 3.3 million in urban areas did not have access to safe drinking water, and the situation as regards sanitation was even worse.

"This translates to (about) 16 million of Kenya's population of 32 million people, lacking safe drinking water today," Karua said in an address to mark United Nations World Water Day in Nairobi.

Sanitation was even more depressing, she said.

"An estimated 16.4 million (34 percent), which is slightly more than half the country's population, is lacking basic sanitation services," she added.

Karua said the government was working to deliver water to about eight million people as well as to improve the sanitation of 12 million others if it is to meet the water target of the UN Millenium Development Goals by 2015.

"My ministry is implemeting reforms in the water sector to restructure and address problems associated with the management of the resources and delivery of water and sewer services," she added.

Karua added that the long-term vision of the reforms is a significant reduction of poverty levels in the country and especially rural areas.

About 56 percent of the country's population live on less than a dollar a day, according to official figures.

The minister explained that morden water treatment technology, which involves use of chemicals, was very expensive for majority who live in rural areas and urban slums.

"These treatment methods approaches, although they may be suitable under certain circumstances, are not only expensive to run, but also are not suitable in most rural settings in our country, where electricity is not available to run the units and where a conventional water supply and distribution system does not exist," she added.

Karua said the current challenge was to provide low-cost, low maintenance treatment technologies without compromising perfomance.

Chemical filtration -- use of chlorine tablets, boiling water and filtration -- were the most effective way to handle water in the country, she explained.

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