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Nairobi water crisis to persist

By Emmanuel Too | May 22nd 2020

For weeks now, Nairobi city dwellers have been grappling with dry taps. The available water cost an arm and a leg, and now no one knows the source. 

Residents will now have to brace for even severer water shortage with the government agency concerned with water supply offering lamentations. Nairobi residents now have nothing to smile about.

“We have not received water for the past two weeks. We are therefore unable to maintain the level of cleanliness required of by the Ministry of Health to keep Covid-19 at bay. We do not know what to do next,” says Alice Atieno, a resident in Umoja Estate in Nairobi.

The residents have now been forced to look for alternatives to keep the wheels of life moving. This situation granting water vendors a chance to make a kill while bridging the gap. However, the source and safety of the water they supply is questionable.

“We now buy water from vendors who draw it from boreholes and other places we don’t know about. We are now living in danger of contracting something bigger than Coronavirus,” adds Judith Jahenda a green grocer in Nairobi.

 The dire situation in this estate is a pointer to what many are going through to survive. Many areas especially in the slums of Mukuru Kwa Reuben, Mathare and Kibra areas are on the precipice of collapse. 

In fact, in yesterday’s press briefing on Coronavirus, Kibra slum led with high numbers of Covid-19 confirmed cases in Nairobi County. The correlation with lack of water is not far from the truth. 

The slum is now staring at possible lockdown after it emerged that the shanty is becoming Nairobi’s hotspot for the deadly virus. On May19, Kibra had 24 cases, the next day 15 and yesterday 13 with a total of 52 cases in just three days.

“The Siaya story is a sad one because the departure point of that case is actually in Kibra, somebody in Kibra without the authority to authorize anybody to travel signed a document that allowed and was respected by police all the way from Kibra taking mourners for a funeral in Siaya,” lamented Mutahi Kagwe, CS Health. 

The situation could move from bad to worse, if the water services providers association (WASPA)’s position is anything to go by. 

“People have not been paying water bills after the Coronavirus pandemic. Thus we have had a shortage of over Sh1 billion to run our operations. Tomorrow, it will not be an issue of water shortage but total lack of the basic commodity,” says Antony Ambugo, the Chief Executive Officer, Water Services Providers Association (WASPA)

Further, the water suppliers in the county say they cannot afford to pay the lean workforce together with treating the water before supply among other issues.

“We do not have money to buy chlorine to treat water. Remember water safety is crucial because we all use it in our homes and at work places. We are hereby calling upon the government and other stakeholders to chip in and bridge this gap, or else taps will completely run dry,” added Michael Mangeli, the chairperson WASPA.

The crisis comes just days after the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company shut down water supply from Sasumwa dam following a landslide in Karemenu at the Aberdare ranges.

In a press release issued on Friday, the water company explained that even though its engineers and maintenance staff are already on site to start the repairs, their efforts were being hampered by the heavy rainfall.

“Currently the area is experiencing heavy rains making access very difficult. We are doing everything possible to restore the supply to residents,” read the statement from the water firm.

The city water company also announced that it is mobilizing water tankers to supply water to the affected areas in a bid to mitigate the effects of the water shortage.

This is the second time the capital has experienced interruption of water supply in a span of two weeks. Last week, the city experienced dry taps after a downpour in the Aberdare Ranges caused the shutting down of Ng’ethu treatment works.

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