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Dry Korogocho taps now worsen life in dusty Nairobi urban slums

by Christine Lagat NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The dusty alleys leading to Korogocho slums located in the eastern edges of the Kenyan capital Nairobi were a beehive of activity on Thursday afternoon as water vendors rushed the commodity to residents.

Known for their agility and stamina, the water vendors defied the scorching afternoon sun to deliver a commodity whose demand has surged in the densely populated slum.

Many households in Korogocho and its adjoining low-income suburbs are now struggling with dry taps occasioned by a water rationing program starting on the first day of this year.

The Nairobi water utility said the rationing program would extend until the onset of long rains season in April due to shrinking water levels in main reservoirs amid the lingering drought.

Residents of the city’s slums who eke a living through casual labor and small businesses were among the hardest hit by the water shortage as they are forced to buy water from cartels at exorbitant prices.

Joab Mutuku, a vegetable vendor who live in a shack with his wife and three sons, said purchasing water from vendors has depleted his savings and would undermine his goal of expanding the business.

"Sourcing water from vendors has been financially draining at a time I am expected to pay school fees for my children.

"Though we are used to water scarcity, the current situation is dire," Mutuku told Xinhua.

The middle-aged man has a stall in the open-air market in Korogocho slums, where on a good day he earns 15 dollars, but purchasing the commodity from vendors consumed a quarter of his daily savings.

"My family is big and am forced to spend about 3 dollars on water since the rationing began.

"We require more than ten jerry cans daily to meet domestic needs like cooking, washing clothes and flushing the toilet," said Mutuku.

He warned of a looming health crises due to severe water scarcity in a slum village infamous for crime, congestion and pollution.

"The ongoing water rationing should serve as a wakeup call to my neighbors who neglect hygiene.

"We are likely to experience a spike in water-borne diseases unless we invest in deterrent measures," Mutuku said.

The expansive Korogocho slums are home to an estimated 200,000 people.

In recent years, the national and county governments have pumped massive resources to upgrade critical infrastructure like roads, water and power supply in the informal settlement.

However, poor planning coupled with breakdown of law and order has constrained efforts to connect residents of Korogocho slums with piped water.

Those who spoke to Xinhua said the ongoing water rationing was a harbinger of worsened financial difficulties ahead.

Mary Akoth, a mother of three and a housewife, worried that water rationing would disrupt her daily schedules while eroding her meager savings.

"Since the water rationing began last Sunday, I have been forced to wake up at dawn to look for the commodity in a nearby kiosk where it is sold at exorbitant prices by illegal groups," said Akoth.

She revealed that vendors and cartels that control the water kiosks in Korogocho slums have conspired to hike the cost of the commodity as rationing intensifies.

Akoth spends 2 U.S. dollars every day to obtain water from vendors and informal kiosks.

Her biggest worry is the compromised quality of water sourced from informal vendors.

"My neighbor complained of a stomach infection the other day after drinking water bought from vendors.

"Her children too suffered from a bout of diarrhoea but am more careful now to prevent an infection," Akoth told Xinhua.


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