COMBATING COVID-19

NGOs urge City Hall to provide free water in slums

Call to to waive charges to avoid risk of contracting the disease

In Summary

• Slum dwellers face the highest risk of contracting the disease due to high population densities and non-availability of water in their homes.

• Lobbyists want the Ministry of Water to work with the community-based organisations to regulate the rates charged by private vendors.

A section of Kibera slum in Nairobi. There many informal settlements in the city without running water.
HIGH RISK AREAS: A section of Kibera slum in Nairobi. There many informal settlements in the city without running water.

The government has been urged to waive water charges for people living in slums so that high hygiene standards are maintained to combat the spread of Covid-19.

The call came from 16 NGOs drawn from informal settlements in a letter to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, who is leading the national anti-coronavirus efforts.

The NGOs said slum dwellers faced the highest risk of contracting the disease due to high population densities and non-availability of water in their homes.

The organisations included Umande Trust, Social Justice Centres Working Group, Slum Dwellers International, Shining Hope for Communities and SHOFCO Urban Network, Physicians for Human Rights Kenya, Crime Si Poa, HakiJamii and Kenya Social Movement.

Amnesty International and ActionAid International cosigned the letter.

The lobbies argued that with the worsening economic situation in the country, putting price on water, especially in urban slums will undermine regular hand washing.

"All public water service providers and KPLC [should] announce a moratorium on all electricity and water charges for all people living in urban settlements for the duration of the [coronavirus] crisis," the letter said.

The group wants the Ministry of Water to work with the community-based organisations to regulate water rates charged by private vendors.

"People in informal settlements are particularly at risk of viral respiratory infections due to their population density, open-air markets and use of public transport," the lobby group said.

They further noted: "Immediate access to clean and safe water for handwashing is a precondition for keeping people safe and preventing the spread of Covid-19."

The newly installed Nairobi Metropolitan Services board was urged to vacate the ban on harvesting rainwater in the city "to allow communities to legally conserve and use rainfall to wash their hands."