Residents of Nairobi Slums Face Daily Water Challenges

Alex Pena

World Water Day is being marked in Kenya by events and awareness campaigns across the country, but in many Nairobi slums, today’s focus on water is the same as yesterday's -- and every other day's.

When the water tap threatens to run dry in this Nairobi slum, tensions rise.

Women, waiting for their turn to fill their 20-liter containers of water, fight as they fear not being able to fill hers, one woman jumps the line, and chaos ensues.

They’re fighting over the most essential resource of life, water, something this slum has little of.

Everyone here is looking for a clean tap.  

In another Nairobi slum - Kibera -Peter Njeru owns one of those taps. It is a lifeline for residents. “Once somebody does not have water, you cannot cook, you can not wash, you can not do anything without water. Water is life,” he said.

With a severe drought recently affecting the country, water shortages are on the rise. Peter gets his water from international NGO’s. He charges the equivalent of four U.S. cents to fill a 20-liter container, but when his water runs low, he’s forced to charge more.

People living here can spend nearly 30 percent of their monthly income on water alone.  So when prices rise, they often go the cheaper route, to local pipes.  

“The local pipes, they usually use the plastic pipes, and when they normally use the plastic pipes, they get damaged,” Njeru explained.

And when they’re damaged, dirty sewage seeps into the water. Residents who drink from those pipes are at risk of diarrhea, typhoid or even cholera.

“It’s dangerous, it’s easier to get disease from pipes which are normally broken pipes,” Njeru added.

One local youth football team bought its own pipes, and built its own tap. That way, members can watch their water, make sure it’s clean, and help supply their neighbors.

"We decided to bring this water here so that we can help the local residents," Team chairman John Mang said. "Because there are shortage of water, and to sell to them at a cheaper price. The youths here saw that they had nothing to do, so they decided they can gather themselves, then they started project, and it can give them a source of income."

While small projects like this one have been beneficial, the water crisis in Kenya is far from solved.

Dan Mogusu from the Kenyan Ministry of Water and Irrigation hopes that World Water Day will bring the issue to light.

“If you look at the international slogan, it’s water and food security, and that is very key, because in this horn of Africa, we’ve been having droughts, and we’ve been having hunger. So we really need to come out and address the issue of food, and without water, we cannot address the issue of food,” he said.

The government wants to begin harvesting rain water, storing it for re-use.  

It will be demonstrating water harvesting in the drought-affected regions of northern Kenya, but back in the city slums, there is no harvest, and the struggle for water continues.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs