Buying Water In Kenya
One part of life taken for granted in America is indoor running water. You turn on a faucet, and get what you need. There are concerns about the future, and fussing about water rights. What does happen here is a person walking to a water vendor to buy a 20 liter supply of water. In Kenya, that is a way of life.
Kibera is euphemistically known as an informal settlement. It is located in Nairobi, Kenya. A land mass 75% the size of New York’s Central Park is home to a lot of people. “More accurately, Kibera turned into an unauthorized settlement after Kenya gained independence in 1963 and the new government made illegal certain forms of housing. Nonetheless, landlords rented out cheap properties to impoverished Kenyans who could not afford legal housing, and has since earned the reputation of being one of Africa’s largest urban slums. Importantly, the precise population of Kibera is hotly debated and remains uncertain. Some estimates are as high as one million and others as low as 170,000 (e.g, 2009 Kenya Census). Estimates are difficult because Kibera is made up of residents who are extremely mobile, and often prefer to remain in the shadow of the law.”
Very few of the residents have running water. Every day, people have to carry a 20 liter jerrycan to a water vendor. Often, there are shortages, and the price goes up. The water is often contaminated. There are water mafias, which create artificial shortages to boost the price.
“If the root of water problems in Kibera centered on price and supply it may be more manageable, but issues of water quality substantially complicate clean water delivery systems. Most water pipes in Kibera run above ground and are made of plastic (due to issues with theft of steel pipes), which are highly fragile and easily manipulated. These pipes will often crack or break (either accidentally due to traffic or intentionally by competitors), allowing sewage to seep into drinking water. Indeed, water sources that are generally clean can easily become contaminated without notice. This is reflected in public health data—infant mortality rates and bloody diarrheal infection rates in Kibera are more than three times the average of Nairobi as a whole (UNDP 2006).”
Stanford University is setting up a program to use mobile telephones to help people find water. Evidently, mobile phones are more common is the slums of Kenya than clean water. The program is called M-Maji, which is Swahili for mobile water. A database will have information about who has water for sale, the price, and the quality of the water. This information will be available to water users via mobile phones.
HT to Bloggingheads.tv. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library”. The spell check suggestion for Kibera is Liberace.