Featured: The Government’s commitment leading to improved water and sanitation coverage

Rwanda has made good progress in extending water supply and sanitation coverage during the past few years, under clear political commitment to three complementary sets of targets: the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (2012), Millennium Development Goals (2015), and Vision 2020. The coverage trend over the past 10 years for rural water supply demonstrates the country’s capacity for developing new projects.

Mukamazero Epiphanie sighs contentedly as she hands a cup full of water to her six year old daughter. She too has just treated herself to a full mug of cool refreshing water from the water filter.

Looking at her daughter drawing the last drops of water from the cup, she thinks of the days not long ago when things were different. Residing in Kabukuba sector in Bugesera District, Mukamazero a farmer married with five kids says the water available for cooking, bathing and drinking is fetched miles away from Nyabarongo.

Water Aid, one of the International NGOs, is striving to avail water to communities with no access to improved water source in Bugesera. Mukamazero is the beneficiary to water supplied by the partner. She thinks that she is lucky.

However like many other Rwandans, it is a fact that access to affordable water and sanitation services is their basic right. It is also important to recognize the economic value of water and good sanitary services as ingredients in achieving economic development.

According to the most recent EICV4, the proportion of the population/ households accessing improved source of water is 84.8% with a gap of almost 15%.

Due to increase pace of urbanization in Kigali and secondary cities, WASAC, the Utility responsible to supply and distribute potable water,  is faced with old water distribution networks, the major cause of water shortage. 

The functionality of rural water supply systems is not optimal due to old extension network which results in the breakdown of systems.

With regards to Sanitation sub-sector, Households using improved sanitation facilities in rural areas stand at 81%, urban 94% making an average of 83% country wide

The Water and Sanitation sector in Rwanda is being guided by the Vision 2050 which is about ensuring high standards of living for all Rwandans; improve quality of life, modern infrastructure, transformation for prosperity.

In order for this to happen, adequate investment in water and sanitation infrastructure, providing sanitation facilities and promoting hygiene at every level is a prerequisite.

The water and sanitation strategic plan is expected to be implemented for another period of seven years from 2018-2024 in line with achieving broad water supply and sanitation targets of at least basic water supply services for 100% of people by fast-tracking implementation of strategic investment program as well as achieving at least basic sanitation coverage for 100% of households.

According to the EDPRS II, it was recognized that water supply affects broad areas of human life. The provision of adequate water supply services plays a crucial role in preventive health care and a prerequisite and socio-economic development indicator.

The safe drinking water is a basic amenity, ranked among the highest priority public services by Rwanda’s population.

The access to drinking water reduces time spent on fetching water and has a positive impact on school enrolment and attendance especially for girls.

Schools use a large amount of water. Every day schools require water for their heating and cooling systems, restrooms, drinking water faucets, locker rooms, cafeteria, laboratories, art rooms, outdoor playing fields and lawns.

That said, the Government of Rwanda fully acknowledges the importance of water supply services for human and economic growth and has significantly increased sector funding threefold since 2014 to address and existing investment backlog.

The sector aims to increase the proportion of the population/ households accessing improved source of water from 84.8% (EICV 4) to 100% and the proportion with improved sanitation services/ facilities from 83% (EICV 4) to 100%.

Furthermore, regarding sanitation, the sector plans to increase the proportion of schools with latrines complying with health norms to reach a target of 100% and the proportion for rural households will increase to 100%.

Urban water supply

Urban in water supply services in Rwanda   are   most   provided   by WASAC, a public utility operating on a commercial basis. WASAC is therefore the key implementer of the policy and strategic plans, under the oversight of MININFRA and regulation by RURA. The trends in annual total urban water production capacity still fall short of the demand for increasing urban population and the growing pace of urbanisation.

Rural water Supply

Today, Rwanda’s rural population is served by more than 1,000 piped water systems and  approximately  20,000 improved point water sources (protected springs or boreholes and wells equipped with hand pumps), according to the National  Inventory  of  Water  and the most efficiently governed country in Sanitation Infrastructure. Of these, 27 systems have a length of more than 40 kilometres.

Speedy progress in the sanitation sector

Rwanda Capital City has been voted the cleanest City in Africa,   it has been named third greenest destination in the world and the most efficiently governed country in Africa.

It has however not been a mean feat getting to its current enviable position. Today, wastewater regulations are in place and being enforced, major hotels, hospitals, commercial buildings and industries have installed their own wastewater treatment systems.

The cleanliness is also evident in rural areas in Rwanda, so far eight (8) modern landfills were constructed, 4 in the East and 4 in the Southern provinces, 4 others will be constructed and studies are available for Musanze, Rubavu, Karongi and Rusizi.

Rwanda’s schools benefited from the Community Health Clubs (replacing the Hygiène et Assainissement en Milieu Scolaire (HAMS) /(Hygiene and Sanitation in schools) programme that started in 2000) which focuses on behaviour changes in hygiene practice, including considerations for menstrual hygiene.

Rwanda will not only have to improve, replace or build annually estimated 500,000 facilities at household levels, but also increase hygiene awareness and practices and provide safe (collective) sanitation services for several million households throughout the country.

Challenges in the sector

Despite positive gains, critical challenges remain. Poor quality toilets are a challenge especially in rural areas. In terms of hygiene and structural conditions, insufficient water and wastewater treatment as well as solid waste management are among the key challenges. The reasoning behind is that WASAC like other water utilities across the world and mainly in Africa still facing a big challenge of having high Non-Revenue Water.

According to experts from WASAC, the main causes of water losses are technical (due to leaks and burst of water pipes, old water network and high pressure in the water network) and commercial losses due to (meters inaccuracy, water theft by customers, error in data processing in billing).

Several towns across Rwanda are growing and expanding at an unprecedented pace.

This rapid urbanization requires infrastructures including roads, water, electricity etc, there have been observed huge roads construction works and broad band expansion across the country which affected the existing water networks and created a lot of leaks and burst of WASAC water network.

Modern sanitation service provision, solid waste and storm water management require efficient institutional capacities and somewhat costly infrastructure. Investments with high economic but low financial return are usually not very attractive for the private sector and may need public finance and/or subsidies.

Shifting to the SDG Vision

The progress achieved towards the EDPRS2 is remarkable and a huge advance for Rwanda. Going forward, as Rwanda is committed to achieving the SDGs, the level of ambition will be raised, requiring a revision of the target.

While the progress towards the MDG target of ‘improved’ water and sanitation services is nearly achieved, SDG 6 significantly raises the level of ambition and level of service required for achievement of the SDGs.

The mission of the water supply and sanitation sector and its key stakeholders (national, local, public and private) is to promote plan, build and operate water and sanitation services in a sustainable, efficient and equitable manner and administrative processes will be established/revised to ensure effective sector programme management.

Working with other partners

The Government of Rwanda has had comprehensive discussion and participation of all stakeholders in water supply and sanitation which includes bilateral and multilateral development partners, INGOs, local NGOs, Central Government and ministries and all districts.

JICA is among the many partners in the water and sanitation sector that has operated in Rwanda since 2005. Projects supported by JICA include the Rwakibogo water project that provides clean water for over 43000 people in Mwulire, Kigabiro and Munyaga Sectors in Rwamagana District. Others are the Gatore project which provides water for Kayonza District and Kigina, Gatore, Mushikiri and Gahara sectors in Kirehe District.

World Vision works in some of the most remote areas in the world to provide clean water and help lift people out of poverty. Nyamagabe is one of eight World Vision area programs (APs) that are covered by Rwanda THRIVE (Transforming Household Resilience in Vulnerable Environments), our signature economic empowerment program in Rwanda. In addition to improving incomes, this program will provide clean water access to 5,500 households.

Since 2010, WaterAid works in Rwanda to contribute to government’s plans in both service delivery and capacity development for sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

To achieve its goals, the organization engaged in partnerships at the district and national level, with key partners including the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Ministry of Health, the University of Rwanda/ College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS), Bugesera and Nyamagabe District, Compagnons Fontainiers du Rwanda (COFORWA) and many other likeminded organizations working in Rwanda.

The focus of operations has been on Bugesera district, supporting water supply and sanitation in remote communities, schools and public places.

Also in April 2008, Water For People opened its office in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital and largest city. Since then,Water For People-Rwanda has worked with various stakeholders to provide sustainable drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education.

Water For People-Rwanda focuses its work in the districts of Kicukiro and Rulindo, and in 2016 is beginning work in the district of Gicumbi. In 2010, Water For People-Rwanda launched the Everyone Forever model, and since that time has been working with partners to implement sustainable water systems for an entire district.

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