by Bedah Mengo
A plastic tin in her right hand and wearing gumboots, the young woman frantically scooped water from her house in Soweto slum on the east of Nairobi, Kenya.
It had rained heavily Friday night, flooding her house and those of her neighbours in the slum district and others in Nairobi.
Her efforts, however, seemingly yielded little fruit as the dirty water mixed with sewage flowed back into her house because of poor drainage.
Veronicah Apondi was frustrated as the dirty water had soaked most of her household items.
“My children and I did not sleep the previous night. We spend the whole night scooping water out of our house,” said Apondi on Saturday.
As many other residents of informal settlements in the capital, Apondi’s life has become miserable as rains pound Nairobi and other parts of Kenya.
Lack of drainage in the slums coupled with poor housing has exacerbated the plight of the residents, adding pain to misery.
The slum dwellers are living on the edge, with the rains interfering with their daily activities and even livelihoods.
Apondi, who sells groceries at a stall in the slum, could not open her business on Saturday because she was busy emptying water from her house.
Besides, she could not access her stall because the place was flooded with water.
“If it rains again this heavily for two days, my children and I would starve. I have not been able to buy more supplies for the last two days or sell so that I can provide for my family,”she said.
And as she pondered on the disruption of her livelihood, Apondi and many other residents of similar informal settlements in Nairobi stared at the possibility of contracting water-borne diseases like cholera and typhoid due to the poor sanitation.
Already 30 people from various slum districts in Nairobi that include Kibera were Friday admitted to hospital with cholera- related symptoms.
Health officials from Nairobi City government said most of them were suffering from diarrhoea, one of the signs of cholera. The county government is distributing clean water to affected areas to prevent residents from using contaminated water.
Salome Wanjiku, a social worker in the capital’s Korogocho slum, said it is a tough time for many slum dwellers in Nairobi.
“Many shanties are flooded, some have been destroyed, the roads are impassable and there is sewer all over. We are staring at a crisis if it continues to rain heavily and help does not come soon, ” she said.
She isolated water-borne diseases as one of the biggest threats to residents’ lives. “Some people are even afraid of allowing their children to play in the open because they fear they may contract the diseases.”
According to the UN-Habitat, nearly half of Nairobi’s four million people live in about 40 slum districts, with many others coming up almost daily due to rural urban migration.
The Kenya Meteorological Department notes in its latest outlook that heavy rains are expected to continue in Nairobi and other parts of the country. Enditem