Feature: Kenyan slum dwellers benefit from clean water project to ward off COVID-19

  • World
  • Saturday, 08 Aug 2020

NAIROBI, Aug. 7 (Xinhua)--With the sun's brightness painting their shadows in the background, Lillian Bung'a and her friend sat on jerricans chatting while momentarily breaking from their conversation to move their jerricans closer towards a water station.

The bond between the two new friends has deepened thanks to a frequent walk both women have been making to a new operational borehole that supplies households in Nairobi's Kawangware slum with free clean water.

"Having clean water was an unimaginable luxury for us slum residents, we had almost gotten used to fetching scummy water that traded for 20 shillings (about 0.18 U.S. dollars) for a 20 liter jerrican.

"This newly sunk borehole has truly transformed our livelihoods," said Bung'a.

Just like Bung'a, many slum dwellers who had been plagued by water scarcity can now sigh with relief after the president instructed local officials to provide the commodity for free water as part of an effort to protect them from COVID-19.

The mother of three said she now has adequate water and can comfortably engage in frequent hand washing, which is the first line of defense against COVID-19.

Local media reports indicate that some 93 boreholes have been sunk in Nairobi's informal settlements to ensure residents have access to safe drinking water.

"We have over 14 million liters of water that has been brought into the informal settlements across the city targeting about 750,000 people daily," Michael Thuita, CEO of Athi Water Works Development agency during a recent interview.

Fredrick Wamalwa knows all too well the remarkable change that accompanies the availability of safe drinking water in the low-income Nairobi settlements.

Wamalwa is tasked with caring for Dagoretti Muslim Primary school, home to the borehole frequented by Bung'a and her neighbors.

Among his duties include ensuring that he opens the shop early to allow residents to fetch the precious commodity and maintain order.

"I open the water kiosk at dawn and as early as it may seem, you are likely to see people in a file approaching this water point," said Wamalwa.

"The only time this water kiosk is closed is when there is no electricity to pump it but it is a rare occurrence," he added.

Wamalwa said that borehole water prompted the school to put up a greenhouse and engage in subsistence farming.

"All these fresh tomatoes and passion fruits are thriving due to the water coming from the borehole," said Wamalwa.

He said that sales from the fruits have helped both him and the school administration to satisfy pressing needs.

Wamalwa said he was optimistic that once schools reopen, learners will have plenty to eat and sufficient water to keep the school green and clean.

Water availability has always been a challenge in urban informal settlements, with stakeholders taking note of the lack of a formal piping system to supply it to households.

The prevailing situation has made these areas prone to waterborne disease and COVID-19.

"The current water pipes are old and are not able to sustain the influx of people that is why some households lack water. In addition to that, some unknown persons destroy those pipes directing water to private water vendors who charge residents for a filling," said Abdul Hamed Abdullah, a mechanical engineer.

He admitted that community boreholes have unleashed income-generating activities for the youth who have established car wash stations and makeshift eateries.

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