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This ATM provides families in Kenya access to safe, clean drinking water

By Divya Amladi
Catherine Nabulon, 34, of Abulon, Kenya, uses her E-wallet to procure safe drinking water for her family. Photo: Joy Obuya/Oxfam

A simple innovation is changing the way we fight drought. 

It is not uncommon for new mothers to struggle to adjust to the challenges of motherhood. Catherine Nabulon, 34, of Abulon, Kenya, has the added complication of raising her newborn in the middle of a drought. After her husband left her, she became the sole income earner in her household. To make ends meet, she spends her days in search of odd jobs, but that has gotten increasingly difficult as resources have dried up.

Turkana County, where she lives, has been ravaged by a devastating drought. It is one of 23 counties—half of Kenya—that is in dire need of water. With increased demand from both people and livestock, water sources have been stretched, and now 2.6 million people require life-saving aid, including clean, safe water. 

To cope with the effects of drought, Oxfam is providing conditional cash via an E-wallet mechanism, which allows beneficiaries to regain some control over their lives. With her allocation of 900 Kenyan shillings (roughly $9), Nabulon purchases clean water to care for her child. The aid gives her peace of mind and lets her focus on her dream of starting a business.  

Where we come in 

Since September 2016, Oxfam has been on the ground repairing and upgrading borehole wells as well as providing cash assistance to help people buy water and food, and teaching them good hygiene and sanitation practices to help avoid disease outbreaks.

Through financial support from European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), we are reaching 1,000 households (or 6,000 people) with cash transfers, including cash that is disbursed through an E-wallet mechanism used specifically to buy clean, reliable water.

How does it work?

Customers presents their card to an Equity Bank agent to debit the amount that he or she needs to buy water for a particular day. Then, the agent issues a receipt for that amount of water. Each five-gallon jerry can costs 5 KES, or about five cents.

Next, that receipt is handed off to a water kiosk vendor for redemption. The vendor draws a volume of water that is equivalent to the amount taken off the card.

The system allows for flexibility and better planning so Catherine, and others in Turkana, can address their most immediate needs and cope with the drought.


Despite Oxfam’s work, drought in Kenya continues to push people to extreme hunger. We urgently need your help to save lives.

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