Water is essential. We need it to live. Through the ingenuity of engineers, systems exist around the world to help people access clean water and dispose of dirty water without the two mixing. This helps to avoid the issues that come from a contaminated water supply, such as disease outbreaks and poor sanitation.


In Kenya, 2.09 million people were affected by flood related catastrophes between 1990 and mid-2004 (EM-DAT database). Those most vulnerable to floods are living in informal settlements like Kibera, which is the most densely populated slum in Nairobi. The poorest of the residents in Kibera are forced to live near the rivers and streams as land there is the cheapest. Separating water supply becomes particularly difficult during rainy seasons when water sources overflow and mix. Each year people’s homes are washed away, their water supply gets contaminated which leads to disease outbreaks and residents become displaced.

Engineers Without Borders UK works in partnership with Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), a Kenyan NGO whose main focus is to improve the lives of residents in Kibera. Last year Engineers Without Borders UK volunteers’ Rodoula and Rebecca spent three months working in Kibera, adding to the continuing collaborative relationship between Engineers Without Borders UK and KDI. They contributed to the transformation of the polluted waterway that weaves through the settlement into a lively spine of community amenities and social life. It is now on the way to become a welcoming public space that provides basic amenities like clean water, toilets, schools, and playgrounds; offers income-generating assets like community gardens, and small-business kiosks; and delivers educational and social development opportunities. Rodoula and Rebecca also helped to manage two engineering students each from the EWB University of London team. This increased their impact through awareness raising workshops, investigations and reports on waste management and research on flood protection infrastructure.

The combined work of Engineers Without Borders UK and KDI in Kibera is a unique example of cross border, sectoral and cultural collaboration that can guide the development engineering sector to go beyond the design of things, to design for and with people. With donations like yours we are continuing to contribute to flood mitigation and alleviation efforts in Kibera which will lead to a decrease in diseases and deaths caused by flooding and unsanitary living conditions, improve the daily lives of families and offer safer sanitation facilities in classrooms, making the area more attractive and conducive for economic activity.