In 2004, UN-HABITAT, in association with the Governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda launched a major initiative to address the water and sanitation needs of the population, particularly the poor, in the secondary urban centres around Lake Victoria. The Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative (LVWATSAN) is supporting participating governments to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for water supply and sanitation, with emphasis on innovative solutions and speedy delivery. It has a clear pro-poor focus, and is intended to generate desirable outcomes that would have a lasting effect on the poor.
Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake in the world and the largest lake in Africa. The Lake catchment provides the livelihood of about one third of the combined populations in the three countries or about 30 million people. However, it is estimated that more than 50 percent of the Lake basin population lives below the poverty line. The rapidly growing urban centers in the Lake Victoria basin are playing an increasingly important role in the economic development of the region. Most of these towns are experiencing unplanned growth and this is negatively affecting basic infrastructure, living conditions, the environment and the fragile ecosystem of the lake.
The LVWATSAN initiative focuses on capacity building; project design, planning and implementation; and follow-up investments. With a growing awareness of the benefits of a regional approach among East African Community countries, regional training and capacity building initiatives are initiated, with emphasis on regional networking, and cooperation in protecting and managing a shared resource – Lake Victoria. One critical issue that seems to affect every country is that of sustainability of services for the poor, especially in terms of cost recovery and subsidy arrangements.