WASH in Wetlands. Where do we stand?

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Wetlands provide abundant water sources. They serve as important livelihoods and beneficial drinking water sources particularly to those people living in semiarid rural regions. At the same time, wetlands can threaten human health and are known sources of water-related diseases (Horwitz et al. 2012). The opposing implications of wetlands on human health underline the importance of safe water, adequate sanitation and good personal hygiene (WASH) to their inhabitants. And stress their crucial potential role in disease prevention in such ecosystems. As water-related diseases affect quality of life, agricultural productivity, family and social networks, and consequently socioeconomic development, water, sanitation and hygiene need to be prioritized in the context of increasing wetland use. A study conducted in Ewaso Narok Swamp, Laikpia County, Kenya, aimed at assessing domestic water sources, supply and storage, sanitation and hygiene of different wetland user groups. Furthermore it intended to explain the underlying causes for different behaviours. A mixed method approach included a broad set of empirical data collected during a household survey (n=400), an observational household assessment (n=397) and in-depth interviews (n=20) conducted in 2015. The case of Ewaso Narok Swamp showed that wetland users’ water supply, sanitation and personal hygiene are inadequate and significantly differ between the different wetland user groups. Whereas the WASH situation of people working in the service sector is rather positive, for pastoralists, it is correspondingly negative. WASH is influenced by a variety of factors, ranging from the quality and availability of water sources, water quantity and the access to sanitation facilities, to lifestyle, traditions and habits. Furthermore, WASH-related behaviour in wetlands is associated with the level of education, health risk perception and the application of health-protective measures. The study design proved to be a valuable model as it served both to assess WASH and better understand WASH-related behaviour. In order to improve the WASH situation and to change behaviour in the long term, the provision of access to improved water sources and sanitation as well as widespread health education is crucial. This is of special importance in the light of increased population growth and wetland use. Ewaso Narok Swamp serves as a model case of a rural wetland in semiarid East Africa, which makes the results relevant at a national and international level. They will be integrated into the development of a health impact assessment tool for wetlands. Key Reference Horwitz, P.; Finlayson, C. M.; Weinstein, P. (2012): Healthy wetlands, healthy people. A review of wetlands and human health interactions. Ramsar Technical Report No. 6. Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands & World Health Organization. WHO, Geneva, 106 pp.
Period11 Oct 2016
Event title2016 UNC Water & Health Conference: Where Science meets Policy
Event typeConference
LocationChapel Hill, United States, North CarolinaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Wetlands
  • WASH assessment
  • WASH
  • Behaviour
  • Health risk perception
  • Farmers
  • Pastoralists
  • East Africa
  • Kenya