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COVID-19 Sewage Surveillance Pilot Project in Nairobi, Kenya

World Waternet in collaboration with the Company and other stakeholders have kicked off  a pilot project to monitor the circulation of coronavirus in sewage collected in the city. The project is jointly executed with KWR Water Research Institute, Waternet and Nairobi Metropolitan Services (Directorate of Health Services) in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).  The one-year project is co-funded by the NL Business Department of the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) via their COVID-19 response package to mitigate the impact of virus outbreak. 

Monitoring to gain insight in the presence and circulation of the virus 

In Kenya, knowledge about the prevalence of COVID-19 is limited and clinical surveillance has limited capacity. Therefore, monitoring the virus in sewage offers an opportunity to gain insight into the presence and spread of the virus in a specific catchment area. KWR, a Dutch knowledge institute, has developed and demonstrated that sewage surveillance can be a sensitive tool to monitor the circulation of COVID-19 in communities. The approach relies on the fact that infected people will shed virus, in particular in faeces and has since been implemented in numerous countries around the world. Monitoring data provides information about the occurrence of the virus which can be used to gauge the situation, evaluate the effect of measures and detect insurgence of infections at an early stage. 

Ag. Director for Human Resource and Administration Services, Monica Tuli, receives a donation of face masks and gloves   from World Waternet Projects Coordinator Sam Robroek early this year. She is flanked by Donor Projects Manager Eng. Ephantus Mugo and Donor Projects Coordinator Philp Oruoch.

How does it work?

Ten sampling points have been selected throughout the city of Nairobi, one of which being the largest sewage treatment plant in the city, Dandora Estates Sewerage Treatment Plant. Samples upstream in neighbourhoods will be manually collected by Waternet (the public water utility of Amsterdam) is one of the partners involved in this early warning sewage surveillance system. Since the implementation of the method in the Netherlands, in February 2020, sewage surveillance is currently one of the pillars of the Dutch COVID-19 monitoring dashboard. Now, the same tool will be used in Nairobi to monitor the spread of the virus, as a cost effective complement to the regular COVID-19 testing programmes that are in place.


NCWSC on a weekly basis and will be transported to the laboratories of ILRI where they will be tested using the analytical protocol developed by KWR.

Dandora Estate Sewerage Treatment Plant, the largest treatment plant in the city, has been earmarked as one of the ten sampling points for the project. 

 Wastewater data will be collected and compared to the epidemiological data about the spread of COVID-19 in Nairobi to further interpret the observed trends and potential outbreaks in Nairobi at an early stage. An online platform will be developed (i.e. dashboard) where the data will be visualised to follow the developments of the spread of the virus and communicate it to the Nairobi Metropolitan Services and other relevant Kenyan authorities.

Performance improvement of public water utilities

The pilot project will continue for one year. If the pilot is successful, the monitoring programme can be extended to multiple locations across the county and even other major urban areas in the country. The pilot fits well in World Waternet’s mission to help improve the performance of public water and wastewater utilities worldwide.


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