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Most in Kenyan Cities Have No Access to Clean Water


A recent survey estimates that less than half of Kenyans living in urban areas have access to safe water. Meanwhile, other Kenyans are coping with water rationing measures. Experts blame the shortage on corruption and global warming.

In a section of Nairobi's Mukuru slum, , one of many slums in the capital, thousands of people purchase their water from just 74 taps. They often walk far distances and carry heavy containers to get that water to their homes.

"Because of the water problem, we wake up very early since you can see that I am normally very busy with my work which if I don't do, we won't get anything to eat. So this forces me to wake up at 4am to go and fetch water," said Mukuru resident Jane Mwangi.

Meanwhile, in Nairobi's central business district, private water suppliers are becoming an increasingly common sight as office buildings can go for days without water.

Most middle-class homes receive water only three or four days a week because of a country-wide rationing program.

A recent survey by Transparency International-Kenya and the development group Maji na Ufanisi estimates that only half of Kenyans have access to clean, safe water. Some 25 percent of Kenyans get clean water through pipes, either at public water taps or in their homes.

Particularly vulnerable are slum dwellers, who comprise some 60 percent of Nairobi's population. Activists say slums are generally ignored by the government, so services such as water tend to be scarce in those areas.

Edward Kairu is executive director of the development group Maji na Ufanisi.

He estimates that about 70 percent of Kenya's water problems actually are due to corruption and inefficiencies in the water system.

The biggest cause of the water shortage, says Kairu, comes from deteriorating pipes and infrastructure, some of which has not been replaced for 50 years.

"In some cities like Nairobi, we may be losing anywhere above 30 percent of the water that is treated - that is a lot of water that is wasted," he said. "Added to that, we also have a lot of illegal connections."

Transparency International executive director Job Ogonda describes the second major cause.

"Most of the corruption happens in the diversion of water from its legal flow to either politically connected flow or flow to people who have bribed for it to flow their way," he said.

The report says that, as a result of this and other corruption, more than half of water consumed for domestic purposes is unaccounted for, while the government is collecting only 20 percent of the fees due from large water users.

Robert Gakubia is CEO of Kenya's Water Services Regulatory Board. He says that the government has been battling poor management in the water sector.

"You can get out laws, get out guidelines, try to monitor, enforce compliance and all that, but if in practical sense there is no investment to support those works, you know that as you give the orders, you know that the problem of mobilizing resources takes much longer," he explained.

For now, many Kenyans are recycling the little water they have to make it last as long as possible.

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