CADFP SPHS Emilly Obuya Colloquium 19112018 09
Dr. Emilly Obuya makes her presentation during the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Colloquium held on Monday, November 19 at the Science Center. PHOTO: ANTONIO LONGANGI

By Caroline Kahiri, Emily Obuya and Dan Muchai

On Monday, November 19, the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences held its second and final colloquium for Fall 2018, on solar disinfection.

Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow from the Sage Colleges New York, Dr. Emilly Obuya, is currently working on a Environmental Protection Agency-funded project that is seeking to develop solar disinfection as a reliable water treatment technology for residents of Obunga informal settlement situated in the northwest part of Kenya’s third largest city - Kisumu, on the edge of Lake Victoria. The region is known for its poor water distribution, poor sanitation infrastructure, and high density of housing.

In her presentation, Dr. Obuya noted that despite water being essential to life, its inequity in distribution has rendered it a very scarce commodity in some regions.

In 2015 according to the World Health Organization, 2.1 billion people are without ‘safely managed drinking-water services’ - that is, improved water sources located on premises, available when needed, and free from contamination.
According to Dr. Obuya, this situation has been largely caused by the absence of infrastructure and economic ability for large scale adoption in communities that lack centralized sanitation and water distribution systems, adding that human activity has worsened the situation by polluting available water.

She gave an example of communities living around Lake Victoria, which do not have access to clean water yet the lake is the second largest fresh-water lake in the world.

Dr. Obuya is convinced solar disinfection will help in treating the water and make it viable for household consumption. Her research includes a study to assess the ability of solar disinfection to completely remove pathogenic E.coli from contaminated drinking water, and the reliability of E. coli in monitoring the bacteriological quality of drinking water.

By monitoring the water bacterial colony at hourly intervals, results indicated that there was a reduction to within the WHO acceptable levels of E.coli permitted in drinking water.

This study is the first technical study in Kenya that evaluates the effectiveness of solar disinfection. The research has involved working with undergraduate and graduate students from USIU-Africa, on a longer-term collaboration in this area, while faculty participate in mentoring the students.