Waive water, power fees in slums till virus gone - lobbies

Access to clean water, proper sewerage critical in preventing disease

In Summary

•Clean water coverage in 2017-18  stood at 57 per cent.

•Respiratory viruses spread fast in slums because of the dense population, open-air-markets, poverty and use of public transport. 

Kibera slum in Nairobi.
SLUMS WITHOUT WATER: Kibera slum in Nairobi.
Image: FILE

All public water service providers and Kenya Power and Lighting Company should waive electricity and water charges for informal settlements for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis. 

That's what 16 global, national, local and other groups called for on Sunday, World Water Day.

Millions in urban informal settlements and other Nairobi neighbourhoods do not befit from continuous affordable clean water.
16 international, national, local organisations

Lack of clean drinking water, lack of access to it, lack of proper sewerage and sanitation can spread the coronavirus in informal settlements.. Once it takes hold, it can spread like wildfire.

The organisations said universal access to water and sewerage facilities are critical in fighting disease.

"We are deeply concerned that millions of people in urban informal settlements and other neighbourhoods across Nairobi and other urban centres do not benefit from a continuous supply of affordable and clean water," they said in a statement.

They said people in informal settlements are particularly at risk of viral respiratory infections due to population density, open-air markets and use of public transport.

"Immediate access to clean and safe water for handwashing is a pre-condition for keeping people safe and preventing the spread of Covid-19," the groups said in a joint statement.

Under the Constitution's Bill of Rights, a key pillar is the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities and to reasonable standards of sanitation.

However, achieving universal water coverage and sanitation remains a mirage at this time.

A Performance Report of Kenya’s Water Services Sector by the  Water Services Regulatory Board for 2017-18 showed that the water coverage stood at 57 per cent.

A National Water Service Strategy paper in 2015 called for 80 per cent cover.

Sewerage coverage wast 16 per cent in 2017-/18.

A National Water Service Strategy paper in 2015 targeted 40 per cent and 100 per cent by 2030.

The report recommended an annual growth of at least four per cent to realise Vision 2030 targets.

The goal is to increase sanitation in urban areas to 100 per cent.

The National Water Masterplan said Sh500 billion is needed, against resources of Sh31 billion by 2030. 

It urged that clean water be provided to all communities in need.

They called for monitoring and regulating water prices in informal settlements.

The groups are the People’s Health Movement Kenya, Pamoja Trust, Open Institute, Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network and Kenya Social Movement - Net.

Also, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Hakijamii, Crime Si Poa, Coalition For Grassroots Human Rights Defenders - Kenya, Amnesty International Kenya and ActionAid International Kenya also signed the statement.

Others are Umande Trust, Social Justice Centre Working Group, Slum Dwellers International, Shining Hope for Communities and SHOFCO Urban Network and Physicians for Human Rights Kenya.

(Edited by V. Graham)

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and Sicily Kariuki, now the Cabinet Secretary for Water and Sanitation, during the handover on February 28.
CLEAN WATER: Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and Sicily Kariuki, now the Cabinet Secretary for Water and Sanitation, during the handover on February 28.