Humanitarian System

Oxfam engineers begin to build the hand pump for the new fresh water bore hole in the village of Nawoyatir in the Lapur district of Lokitaung in Turkana. Photo Credit: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Natural disasters, such as floods, landslides and recurrent droughts have increased over the years, eroding the coping mechanisms of people, contributing to displacements, destruction of livelihood assets, and increasing poverty and inequalities of marginalised people. The government, with support from donors and INGOs, has improved resilience efforts and emergency response. The National Drought Management Authority and the National Contingency Fund have been established to strengthen resilience to drought, and to improve early warning and early action. Kenya Red Cross Society has been mandated as the first responder by the government, with support from non-state actors, when needed.

Oxfam works with partners to support communities build and strengthen their resilience to natural disasters, such as floods, landslides and recurrent droughts, which have increased over the years. Oxfam in Kenya aims to have state and non state actors prepared to prevent and respond early to humanitarian crises while upholding gender equality. Over the next five years, Oxfam will increasingly focus on providing technical assistance to national/county government, and other national organisations to be able to deliver the response, whether category 1, 2 or 3

What does success look like?

  1. Women and men in crisis prone areas are informed and taking preventative measures, earlier, to slow onset crises by 2020
  2. National and County governments, Kenya Red Cross, and other key stakeholders demonstrate sufficient internal capacity to engage in early warning and no regrets action and to effectively respond to crises by 2020.

Urban Early Warning Early Action (UEWEA) Project in Kenya

Oxfam in Kenya is leading advocacy work for the Urban Early Warning Early Action (UEWEA) project in Nairobi, Kenya currently being implemented by a consortium of four non-governmental organizations - Kenya Red Cross, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam in Kenya and World Vision Kenya. The project is aimed at developing early warning systems and early action responses to crises that affect the poor people living in urban slums. The project will utilize Concern’s Indicator Development for the Surveillance of Urban Emergencies (IDSUE) to establish thresholds for humanitarian response aimed at averting food insecurity and health related crises in the urban slum areas of Nairobi.

UEWEA is informed by scarcity of similar interventions in urban contexts: There is already sufficient effort to avert emergencies in rural areas. But these cannot be transposed to urban contexts given their demographic and socio-political peculiarities. Urban areas, especially the slums are densely populated, inhabitants are politically disenfranchised, food systems are local market-based, and their coping mechanisms during crises are different from those adopted in the rural areas. UEWEA is therefore an innovative initiative since it aims to align both rural and urban agencies understanding of the different emergency contexts and indicators as well appreciate the differences in response strategies.

The project aims to achieve four key outcomes: 1) Facilitate the set-up of and capacity-build a coordinated urban early action mechanism within the Nairobi County Government with agreed actions; 2) Strengthen the capacity of 6 Nairobi Sub-Counties and 1 Informal Settlement Community to mitigate and respond quickly to the impacts of slow onset emergencies; 3) Ensure routine surveillance in Urban Informal Settlements in Kenya fully coordinated and managed by the County Disaster Management Committee (CDMC) by the end of 2017; and 4) Advocate for UEWEA as a best practice and most cost effective model for responding to urban emergencies in the world.

Arid and Semi Arid Lands Resilience Consortium

Oxfam in Kenya is currently leading a consortium of three international NGOs (Oxfam, Concern Worldwide and Transparency International Kenya) and a number of Kenyan NGOs aiming to implement a resilience programme in three counties (Wajir, Turkana and Marsabit). Together, we form a strategic partnership with complementary approaches and a common vision to strengthen the Disaster Risk Management system in Kenya and enhance the resilience of marginalised communities living in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands.

Using a consortium approach enhances our work on building people’s resilience through various aspects, from capitalising on each other’s area of expertise and mutualising our strengths which is the only way to address the many aspects that resilience entails. It also offers an opportunity to reach impact at scale. The Consortium is currently piloting system strengthening models aspiring to strengthen the Kenyan Government Disaster Risk Management system. 

The SWIFT WASH Consortium

Improving water access to the most vulnerable communities

The SWIFT Consortium, is working to provide WASH services to nearly 850,000 people in DRC and Kenya. The consortium is led by Oxfam in partnership with Tearfund and ODI as global members and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) as global associate and funded by DFID payment by results programme. 

The Oxfam Kenya WASH function has already been on the forefront in piloting innovative ideas and taking the successful pilots to scale to improve access of water and sanitation services to the most vulnerable communities in Kenya. After years of WASH programming, Oxfam Kenya has championed innovative projects that have significantly led to increased access to water for the most vulnerable communities.

Hybrid Borehole

In February 2016, through partnership with Turkana County Government and through funding from UK Aid and One Foundation, Oxfam championed and demonstrated an innovative water project that takes water access to scale. Oxfam through partnership with county government recently rolled out the largest borehole in the history of WASH programming in Turkana, producing 70,000 litres of water per hour and directly serving over 30,000 people in Lodwar town. The hybrid borehole is fully operational and was commissioned to the County government’s utilities management arm (LOWASCO) to manage the water distribution to the communities.  The borehole mainly runs on solar energy enabling LOWASCO to save on operational costs. In addition, the borehole both solar and grid power connection, pairing the two sources of power ensures the borehole is constantly running and communities have constant access to piped water.  This facility was constructed at a total cost of Kes 15 million

Other similar but smaller solar pumping systems have also been set-up in various rural communities in both Turkana and Wajir counties. In total they are supporting more than 80,000 people with reliable and affordable water.

Water ATMs

In four communities in Wajir County, Oxfam and Mercy Corps have piloted the use of prepaid water meters commonly referred to as water ATMs. In Griftu community where the water utility is managed by Wajir Water and Sewerage Company (WAJWASCO), Oxfam installed water ATMs in 12 water kiosks. The system as four components i.e. the water dispensing unit, the water ATM card, the Card Recharge Unit (CRU) , and the operating system (OS).

This system allows the customers to load water units on to their water ATMs at the designated company agents thus eliminating completely money exchange at the water kiosks. The OS remotely monitors water accessed at the kiosks and money/units loaded on the water ATMs thus making to system tamper proof to corruption and mismanagement.

With this system, WAJWASCO has reported more than 300% increased revenue from Griftu alone. The county government of Wajir now wants to scale up this system to other rural water supply utilities.

Blue Pumps

Small villages in Turkana County mostly depend on water from wells/deep wells for both domestic use and meet livestock demands. The yields from these systems are usually very tiny to warrant investment in solar pumping systems hence they are hand pump operated.

The failure rate of the typical hand pumps in Turkana is about once every three month making communities go several days without water until the hand pumps are fixed. In 2012, Oxfam decided to pilot the blue pump that was said to robust and had a 2 year duty maintenance free warrant.

The initial pumps installed had to undergo major technical improvement to accommodate the deep water tables in Turkana and the intensive and continuous use especially during the dry season. This has been successful and now communities are enjoying reliable water supplies.

To ensure sustainability of these blue pumps and the small solar powered community water projects, communities have to register with an insurance scheme that is provided by the Catholic Diocese of Lodwar to cater for breakdowns.


Jacinta Atiir, of Chokchok in Turkana, Kenya, describes how she and her family had to walk long distances to collect water and carry heavy loads before the SWIFT programme laid a pipeline to her village, and how she is now able to keep her family clean and healthy.