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Why health, water are critical to Nairobi

Source: Standard Digital News
Updated Sunday, January 27 2013 at 00:00 GMT+3

By Evans Kidero

Good health facilities, hygienic living conditions, clean water, proper disposal of solid waste are some of the most critical challenges facing any modern metropolis in the world today.

It is not surprising that Kenyans’ biggest concern is water and environment as captured in survey published in the media recently.Most world capitals have elaborate and long-term policies for dealing with such challenges. However, unfortunately here in Nairobi County we always tend to deal with these challenges on ad hoc basis and as a result, we have ended up with a metropolis that can hardly provide adequate clean water, is constantly facing problems of disposal of solid waste and can never provide healthy living conditions for its close to 4million inhabitants.

People who suffer most from these dire conditions are the poor living in informal settlements where there is no piped water. Here, ironically, water—when available— is more expensive than in the so-called leafy suburbs. This is an unacceptable situation.

And even worse, those Kenyans living in informal settlements are hardly provided with sewer disposal systems. We cannot and should not allow Kenyans to live under such dreadful conditions in this day and age. It is completely unacceptable.

One of the things I find most disturbing is this phenomenon where city residents have to pay to use toilet facilities in CBD. This often means if you are in the city and you are pressed by “a call of nature” but you do not have ten shillings to pay for toilet usage, you are in big trouble because even restaurants which have such facilities often reserve them exclusively for their customers.

The onus will be upon the Nairobi County government to ensure that city residents are provided with clean and free-to-use toilet facilities in CBD. This to me is fundamental human right.

The quality of life for most Nairobians is low not because they want it that way, but simply because the authorities charged with the responsibility of providing social amenities that go towards improving living conditions has failed to do so due to poor leadership, lack of planning and abject neglect.

In 1974 the Nairobi Metropolitan Planning Strategies and Sewer Master Plan was completed but regrettably, this has never been updated almost forty years later. The population of the city has grown tremendously and informal settlements have mushroomed all over the city thus completely outstripping the facilities that were created to provide clean piped water, sewer disposal and health facilities.

The pipes that were laid over fifty years ago to provide water and a sewer system for a city of less than a million residents then are still the same ones we have in place today. To expect a system built to serve about a million people to provide first-rate services to a population almost four times larger is similar to a person trying to load twenty passengers in a saloon car built to carry five. Naturally, there will be a system overload and constant system failures.

My approach to the delivery of better and healthier living conditions for Nairobi County is pegged on the following key pillars:

• Establishment of world-class water distribution systems around the county that ensures everyone in the county has adequate supply of clean piped water at an affordable cost
• Recruitment of qualified and adequately paid personnel to run public health centres

• Provision of adequate and clean toilet facilities in CBD that are managed by the county and provide free services to Nairobians

• Creation of better sewerage management system that caters for the increasing population

• Collection and disposal of solid waste in a ways that do not harm the environment. This should be the bare minimum that city residents should expect from their County Government. And if this is done, it will improve the living conditions and quality of life for residents of Nairobi County.

The writer is an aspiring governor for Nairobi

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