Kenya: Poor sanitation brings misery to slums

Poor sanitation, lack of water and related disease outbreaks are making the lives of the residents of the sprawling Korogocho slums in Nairobi even harder.

“The lack of water and improper waste disposal are a big threat to our lives due to the risk of water-borne diseases,” Nancy Wangari, a community health worker and village elder in Korogocho, told IRIN. “The threat of typhoid, cholera and other diseases from poor sanitation is real.”

Though some pay-toilets have been set up, the cost remains prohibitive, forcing residents to dispose of excreta in plastic bags (so-called flying toilets), which litter the area. In the past few days, a broken sewer line running from the neighbouring Kariobangi Estate has been emptying its effluence into the slum, choking the already narrow pathways between rows of houses.

The scene in Korogocho is replicated elsewhere in Kenya where rapid urbanization has meant more informal structures with little or no water and sanitation services are springing up. According to the 2009 census, an estimated one in five Kenyans uses the bush as a toilet - access to piped water covers only 38.4 percent of the urban population and 13.4 percent of rural residents.

While the “water and sanitation challenges themselves are formidable… their impact on other social, political, and epidemiological systems is equally significant”, notes a recent Humanitarian Futures Group (HFG) report, Urban Catastrophes: The Wat/San Dimension, which examines how water and sanitation stress drives other humanitarian crises in slums.

“As with any valuable good, the provision of clean water and sanitation facilities in slums is an attractive target for corruption, greed, collusion and exploitation,” it states. “Solutions must therefore focus on understanding local social networks.” Read More


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