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By HENRY OWINO,NAIROBI,3RD MAY 2018-Like in many other slums and shantytowns around the world, water is scarce, costly, uncertain and contaminated, in Nairobi’s informal settlements, the situation is not any different .
The major slums are Kibera, Mathare Valley, Mukuru, Korogocho,Kawangware, Majengo, Kiambiu, Kayole, FuataNyayo, Ndadora, Baba Ndogo,Eastleigh among others.
In Kibera, the largest slum in Africa,water crisis is most hit by the problem due to several reasons.Among them is is that by the fact that it is an informal settlement built without mapping out water sources as well as regulation framework from the government.There is no central sewer system, piped fresh water, and crime rates are high.
Secondly ,another outstanding challenge over the years has been political exclusion, operation of water mafias, water rationing, and general poor infrastructure. WWW.UPESINEWS.CO.KE has established that residents of these slums pay much more for water than those wealthier Kenyans in tapped swanky apartments within Nairobi.
To make matters worse, Nairobi shanty dwellers pay more than even what Europeans and New Yorkers pay. Some people would make fun that in shanty quarters, families spend up to 20 percent of their income on water which is equivalent to the cost of their house rents. Reasons being, people live with limited access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare.
The good news however is that a sigh of relief has finally come to the residents. Kibera for instance, close to 400,000 residents now have access to clean and safe water while in Mathare approximately entire residents 700,000 and Gorogocho half of its population of between 150,000-200,000 can now access safe water.
This follows commissioning of an innovative aerial potable water distribution system in Kibera byShining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a local development non-governmental organization. This overhead water distribution system is designed to minimize water adulteration from unscrupulous vendors.
According to Kennedy Odede, the Founder and CEO of the organization, apart from running health clinic, toilet projects and girl child education, clean water services has been a challenge in the slum. He admitted most residents suffered severe stomach problems related to waterborne diseases despite health services offered.
Odede disclosed after months of investigations and survey, aerial piped water was identified as the best alternative and solution to fight various forms of waterborne diarrhea diseases. For example, prominent were dysentery, typhoid and cholera frequently reported and treated at the health clinic for free.
“We approached several private organizations for support and Safaricom Foundation came in handy. The leading mobile subscriber in Kenya gave us a donation of Ksh 12 million which supported the project,” Odede revealed.
“Another reason for the design, it provides a rapid deployment option that doesn’t involve trench digging and underground pipe laying.It guarantees clean and safe water at affordable rates for poor residents,’’ Odede affirmed.
George Omondi, a local resident admits that since the overhead water pipes were fixed, stomach problems have gone down. He boastfully stated the aerial water system has made residents save water money by 60 percent hence majority can afford beef meal twice a week.
“Since installation of these overhead pipes in 2016, cases of infant mortality and bloody diarrheal infection rates in Kibera have significantly reduced,”Omondi asserted.
“These usual underground/above ground plastic pipes often crack or break either accidentally due to human traffic or intentionally by competitors.Breakage allows sewage to seep through yet it’s our main drinking water thus causes diarrhea diseases,” he revealed.
Omondi,aged 42 has lived in the slum for his entire life and he affirms for the last two years, no case of cholera or any other diarrhea diseases has been reported in Kibera. Aerial water pipe system has saved residents since it’s not contaminated and easily accessible.
The new 15 water vending points are strategically located in the 9 villages of Kibera. These are Gatwekera, Soweto West, Kisumu Ndogo, Raila estate, Darajani, Silanga,Kianda, Mama Okinda and Lindi.
“The water is rarely rationed thus available daily and affordable to majority of residents at Ksh2 per 20 litres jerrican,” Mary Atieno said. We now save time, fetch water for money value and diarrhea diseases have drastically reduced in the slum,” she adds.
Atieno explained initially, women and children of Kibera could walk long distances and spend all day looking for water. If they missed clean water or if the price of water found was too high, they would consume substandard water from a free yard tap. Sometimes from natural spring most of which if not all, are contaminated and unsafe for drinking.
“Predominantly, water in Kibera slums, cost Ksh 5 for every 20 litres of jerrican yet its sources were not known and unsafe due to leakages,” Atieno claimed. Most underground pipes have cracks which could seep raw sewageand fetched by innocent women who drank it without boiling.” She regretted.
Today no exploitation as aerial piped water exists in every village assuring safety and security in terms of health and rapists. Chances of contamination from effluent are minimized, sabotage through disconnections or blocking water flow by other competitors is resolved.
According to Veronica Asusa, women and children of Kibera spend a lot time to locatewater vendor, queuing up, and carrying back the water. She said on a good day, the whole process would take a woman one houryet 20litresjerrycan cost between Ksh5 -10.
Asusa stateson bad days like dry seasons or when Nairobi International Trade Fair Show is on or approaches in August and October, women could take 3-5 hours.During the season,this precious commodity cost between Ksh10-20 per 20litre jerrican.
“When there is shortage of water, rational occurred four times a month on average and the price of water skyrocketed to between Ksh 20-30 and even up to Ksh 50 per jerrycan by handcart vendors,” Asusa lamented. In fact, women are much relieved from the quagmire of financial indebtedness,” she added.
“However this has since changed and we mothers are privileged. Cases of women being raped have also reduced. In fact, the new overhead water project is a big win for residents especially women,” Asusa, mother of 5, expressed.
Several water vendors who used to sell water whose source is unknown have been forced out by this modern technology. Residents no longer scramble for water at water vending points .However such technology is yet to be initiated in many slums a move that could provide a long lasting solution.
In Mathare slum for instance , water ATMS offers low cost and safe water to residents.This is a project jointly initiated between Mathare Kosovo Community and Nairobi Water and Sewarage Company.
If the vision of Nairobi’s governor Mike “Sonko” Mbuvi which is “a clean, beautiful and healthy city where water is safe, accessible, affordable and regular” will be realized , Only time will tell if the vision is a reality.