Nairobi slums unite in pursuit of MDGs

By David Njagi

For a village that had the great flaw of lacking clean water and sanitation, the song and dance that lit up this morning was a wish that the women of Sarang’ombe wished could be repeated everyday.

The reason for their hilarious jig, albeit laborious, was inspired by a whiff that they sensed would soon blow good tidings within their grasp. At least, that is what a visiting delegation from the French government thought.

They too, had reason to join this exciting drama. Before making their debut here at Katwekera Tosha, they had to weave their way amidst makeshift shanties that most of the residents who live here in Kibera have called home all their life.

Led by French Ambassador, Madam Elisabeth Barbier, the representatives from the French Development Agency, hopped and skipped drainage trenches that flowed with sludge.

For the well knead gentlemen and ladies from the west however, their mission was purposeful, and not until had they witnessed for themselves what has kept the United Nations antsy since inception would they fall back.

2015 is the timeline by which the world hopes to eradicate global poverty, which includes provision of clean water and sanitation services as enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

That was a pledge, says World Bank records, which the world made in 2000, where it was agreed that the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation would be reduced by half.

According to the report, Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target, The Urban and Rural Challenge of the Decade, to meet the sanitation, MDGs will require a doubling of current efforts.

And that is what AFD and Athi Water Services Board (AWSB), in collaboration with the government of Kenya and local institutions have been trying to do for the last half a decade.

“It is important for the biocenter facility to succeed,” said AFD director, Mr. Severino, “if it succeeds it will be a powerful example that through global partnership the MDG target is achievable.”

30 year old Gladwell Wangari has not heard much about MDGs, but appears to agree that access to clean water and sanitation services is a good thing. She has lived in Sarang’ombe village all her life and is one of the regular users of the Katwekera Tosha biocenter facility.

Unlike the more than 1.1 billion people in both urban and rural areas who currently lack access to drinking water from an improved source, and the 2.6 billion who do not have access to basic sanitation, reports the World health Organisation, Wangari has never known better times.

“I visit the biocenter and this has changed my standard of living for the better,” says Wangari, “it helps our children to access clean sanitation services unlike before where we used ‘flying toilets’. The facility is clean and we are happy with the work that is going on here.”

31 year old Anzeline Kaleche is however not amused by this project that is being sunk outside her Vietnam residence in Korogocho. Neither does she think that it is worth her hard earned money.

Kaleche’s attitude confirms fears that the 2015 target to achieve clean water and sanitation services may after all come a cropper because according to her, she quips: “Where shall we be getting the money to pay for the services? And if one does not have the one shilling fee, where will one be going for a service?”

Upon inauguration as the UN Secretary General, one of Ban Ki-moon very first task was to tour Kibera slum, where he rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s poorest people, even as the world claims to made strides towards civilization.

The UN chief was a figure of consternation as it hit him that there are people who are yet to get access to clean water and sanitation services.


About seventysixthstreet

Science and human rights journalist, Kenya
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