Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 108, Issue 4, pp 442–447 | Cite as

“It makes us really look inferior to outsiders”: Coping with psychosocial experiences associated with the lack of access to safe water and sanitation

  • Elijah BisungEmail author
  • Susan J. Elliott
Qualitative Research


OBJECTIVE: This paper explores daily experiences and coping resources related to the lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation in Usoma, a lakeshore community in Western Kenya.

METHODS: A qualitative approach that involved 10 focus group discussions and 9 key informant interviews with community leaders, volunteers and professionals was used to explore the research objectives. Data were collected from June to August 2013.

RESULTS: Daily practices and experiences around water and sanitation, such as water collection, open defecation and shared toilets, were a major concern to residents. In the absence of safe water, residents used social networks and support, financial resources and the nearby Lake Victoria as coping resources.

CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATION FOR PRACTICE: Findings from this study are important for mobilizing resources in vulnerable settings as a first step towards designing community-based interventions. For public health practice, practitioners must work with — and collaborate across — sectors to enhance and strengthen social networks and cohesion, and protect the natural environment while working toward addressing water-related challenges in deprived settings.

Key words

Drinking water sanitation psychological stress Kenya 

Mots Clés

eau de boisson assainissement stress psychologique Kenya 


OBJECTIFS : Notre article explore les expériences quotidiennes et les ressources d’adaptation liées au manque d’accès à l’eau salubre et à un assainissement adéquat à Usoma, un village lacustre dans l’Ouest du Kenya.

MÉTHODE : Nous avons utilisé une approche qualitative impliquant 10 groupes de discussion et 9 entretiens avec des informateurs (dirigeants communautaires, bénévoles et professionnels) pour explorer nos objectifs de recherche. Les données ont été recueillies entre juin et août 2013.

RÉSULTATS : Les pratiques et les expériences quotidiennes en lien avec l’eau et l’assainissement, comme la collecte des eaux, la défécation à ciel ouvert et les toilettes communautaires, étaient des sources de préoccupations majeures pour les résidents. En l’absence d’eau salubre, ceux-ci faisaient appel à leurs réseaux et soutiens sociaux, à leurs ressources financières et au lac Victoria voisin comme ressources d’adaptation.

CONCLUSION ET CONSÉQUENCES POUR LA PRATIQUE : Les constatations de cette étude sont importantes pour mobiliser des ressources en milieu vulnérable avant de commencer à concevoir des interventions communautaires. Pour exercer la santé publique, les praticiens doivent travailler avec différents secteurs — et assurer une collaboration intersectorielle — afin de rehausser et de renforcer la cohésion et les réseaux sociaux et de protéger le milieu naturel tout en travaillant à relever les défis liés à l’eau en milieu défavorisé.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Kinesiology and Health StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Environmental ManagementUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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