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Safe Pair of Hands

Finished project: Kenya

Contributing to safer environments for children, their families and cities, with the support of UK Aid, the Safe Pair of Hands project improved access to clean water points and handwashing facilities and supported a community-led design and management of these services.

Project overview

Title: Safe Pair of Hands Project

Dates: August 2018 – June 2021

Location: Nyalenda A, Nyalenda B and Obunga in Kisumu City, Kisumu County, Western Kenya

Our role: We worked with the local communities to develop ingenious, lasting, sustainable and locally owned solutions that ensured low-income communities had access to safe water and improved hygiene services that ultimately resulted in positive health outcomes.  

Participants: This project sought to improve the nutritional status of 3,000 children under-5 years and 35,000 people living in informal settlements in Kisumu City.

Project Budget: € 1.1 million

Aim: Cities fit for people

Lead Donor: Public donations matched pound for pound by the UK Government (UK Aid)

“The teachings have been so impactful, and I am glad to have received a handwashing facility that has helped me exercise good hygienic practices. My child’s weight has also significantly increased, and she has become a good feeder.

Josephine Muhonja, mother of three children, who participated in hygiene and sanitation training


Safe Pair of Hands addresses critical barriers to young children accessing safe water, handwashing with soap, and improved hygiene practices.

Without access to adequate clean water for drinking and facilitating hand washing, young children are at significant risk of diseases and associated malnutrition. The effects of this malnutrition are stunting and wasting, which irreversibly affect their development.

In Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city, access to sanitation remains poor. Low-income households lack these essential services. Since toilets are expensive to build, many landlords only provide a single toilet for multiple families. These are often in poor condition, rarely cleaned and don’t include handwashing facilities. As a result, the lack of sanitation services attracts flies that spread diseases. And with nowhere to wash hands safely, diseases are quickly passed between people, creating an unhealthy cycle where outbreaks are common.

Our approach

Practical Action promoted access to safe water and improved hygiene practices by supporting the local community to take the lead in creating new systems, technologies and services to ensure clean, safe water and improved hygiene for all.

In partnership with Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP), the Safe Pair of Hands project improved access to clean water points and handwashing facilities and supported a community-led design and management of these services. Moreover, by sharing knowledge and skills on hygiene practices, the project reduced infections, improved health and life-long nutrition for young children under-5 years and their communities.

We conducted planning sessions with community members before rehabilitation and extension of the water pipeline, as well as last-mile connections to vulnerable and underserved households on hygiene promotion. The project also supported 42 ECD centres with handwashing facilities. In addition, community water operators received various training to strengthen governance of water schemes and included financial resource management, infrastructure maintenance and resource mobilisation, while local artisans and local WASH enterprises received training on low-cost soap production and other maintenance of handwashing facilities.

With a working group that generated campaigns and educational materials, the project reached out to households, ECD teachers and those caring for children with key messages on water safety, improved hygiene and disease prevention.

Access to safe water reduces the significant risk of children under five years dying or developing problems due to malnutrition and diseases.

Our goals

We contributed to reducing the significant risk of children under five years dying or having development problems due to malnutrition and diseases. By implementing access to water and supporting improved hygiene practices, we strived for safer environments for them, their families and their cities through the following;

  • Improved access to clean and safe water.
  • Procurement and distribution of improved handwashing facilities.
  • Improved hygiene practices, especially handwashing practices, of those caring for children under-5 years and children themselves.
  • Policy and advocacy efforts aimed at achieving adequate budgetary allocation for WASH services.
  • Achievements

    Ensuring households have adequate, affordable, reliable access to safe water is a crucial building block for development. Through this project, Practical Action contributed to the following:

    Improved hygiene practices among carers and children under five

    • From 86% to 98%, washing hands with soap at critical times led to reduced diarrhoea and malnutrition cases reported among children under five.
    • 2,750 households with young children under-5 years and 43 ECD centres have functional handwashing facilities.

    Better access and sustainable management led by the communities

    • 416 Km of pipeline completed resulting in improved access to 3,966 households (19,830 people), thus minimising extortion by water vendors.
    • Participatory design of water points and handwashing facilities in collaboration with the private sector and local authorities, community members, including persons with disabilities.
    • Community-based water operators on water resource management and operation maintenance of infrastructure, tariffs and payment mechanisms, and monitoring the use of facilities.
    • Local artisans and local WASH SMEs produce and market low-cost handwashing facilities and soap.

    Sparking informed collaboration

    • Public health campaigns through local media and outreach programmes within the local community, local health facilities and educational institutions.
    • Creation of a hygiene and sanitation thematic working group under the Kisumu County WASH Network, a platform where state and non-state actors regularly meet, share information, knowledge and good practices.

Sustainable Development Goals

The Safe Pair of Hands project contributes to progress against four of the 17 SDGs.

We contributed to ending preventable deaths of children under five years of age by providing clean water and hygiene education sanitation to them and their caregivers.

The project intensified efforts to ensure equal representation of both men and women in planning and monitoring all project activities.

Safe Pair of Hands promoted access to safe and affordable water and improved hygiene practices by supporting last-mile connections to vulnerable and underserved households and distributing handwashing facilities.

We promoted and supported bold collaborations and coordination between county government and non-state actors as an avenue to institutionalising and ensuring the sustainable provision of WASH services for low-income communities.
Find out more

Our ingenious approach combines different solutions that act together to bring about an enormous and lasting change.

All public donations were matched pound for pound by the UK Government.

Donations from the UK public supported Practical Action’s work with communities around the world.

Donations matched by the UK Government were used to help families in Kenya.

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