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

Elijah Bisung, Susan J. Elliott


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.


Drinking water; sanitation; psychological stress; Kenya

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17269/cjph.108.5546