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November 30, 2023

Nairobi water shortage increases risk of COVID-19 spread

Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company workers fix one of the water pipes in Central Kenya. The water pipes were destroyed in a landslide in April.


Some parts Nairobi Kenya’s populous capital have gone without running water for weeks, after a landslide destroyed a water pipe, making it difficult for frequent hand washing for coronavirus prevention. Water distribution points have been set up to help tens of thousands of Kenyans to cope.

For more than two months, Maureen Mkala has taken a narrow alley in Mathare slum in Nairobi to get water for her family, including three children.

She ends up at a crowded water point and it takes her an hour to get 20 liters of water.

“I look for water to clean my hands so that I don’t get the virus. We have a water problem and you are forced to go to the crowded water points to get water,” she said.

A landslide in April destroyed a major water pipe in central Kenya, cutting off running water to entire Nairobi neighborhoods.

The need for water has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people are encouraged to wash their hands regularly to limit the spread of the virus.

Roda Angaya said she is forced to ignore health guidelines in order to get water.

There are many people at the water point, and they are told to keep one-meter distance to limit the spread of coronavirus, Angaya said, questioning how that is possible when everyone is fighting to get the little water that is available.

In central Kenya, engineers are fixing the water line to restore running water supplies, which fell by as much as 20%.

The Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company said they have reduced the water loss to about 10% and the new line being installed will resolve the shortage.

“There won’t be landslides where we are taking the line through,” said Nashashon Muguna, Managing Director at Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company. “The line realignment is about 3.4 kilometers. We expect by mid-June we will be through with it. Already, road work has been done on 8 kilometers. So, all the materials can be able to access the site easily.”

For the people of Mathare, and tens of thousands of others forced to collect water during the pandemic, the work cannot be finished soon enough.

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