Thursday, September 17, 2009

Water is Life

This is a photo of a man offloading water for sale.It's blurred because it was shot through the curtains (paparazzi :) )

In a list of basic needs, water does not necessarily appear at the top. When one is accustomed to a constant supply, there is seldom worry that it might run out. In developed countries, we are almost sure that water will flow the moment we turn on our taps. This is why it has been a shocking shift to watch our seemingly unlimited supply of water run dry. In Nairobi, one of the most developed cities in East Africa, the price of water has skyrocketed. The City Council is no longer able to provide an adequate supply, and residents resort to paying vendors exorbitant prices for water from unknown sources. Unscrupulous businessmen fetch water from the military, Red Cross, or even stagnant pools of sewage. . .and sell it at an extraordinary profit.

For a city that was once known as “the place of cool waters”, Nairobi residents now go without running water for up to six weeks or in some cases more than three months at a time. People have resorted to hiring carts, locally known as ‘Mkokoteni.’ Previously used for carrying luggage or scrap metal, these carts are now pushed long distances on foot, ferrying plastic containers filled with the elusive fluid. As a means of preserving the little they have, residents have reduced the frequency of bathing and flushing. Dirty dishes are stacked and left to wait. Clothes pile up in the corner. But as uncomfortable as these adjustments have been, our situation is much improved compared to those living in the slums of the city. Representing 60% of the urban population, residents of Nairobi's slums may go weeks without showers and are often forced to wash clothes with water tainted by sewage. Sanitation has become a major concern and there are threats of typhoid and cholera outbreaks.

Apart from domestic use, major industries have also been affected. The lack of water has limited irrigation farming and with failed rains over the past several seasons, food prices have shot up, resulting in an estimated 10 million Kenyans now at risk of dehydration or starvation. Environmental degradation is taking its toll with water catchment areas drying up due largely to deforestation. The water shortage now affects businesses across the country as Kenya depends primarily on hydro-electric power. With water sources literally disappearing, power companies are rationing supply and most businesses face power cuts three days per week. This in turn has led to rapid inflation and a 100% increase in costs for basic commodities. As the standards of living continue to decrease in Kenya, we've come to appreciate the saying, “Water is life.” We can't survive without it, so save it now while you can. . .

Please pray for the water situation in Kenya.

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