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BBC's Gray Phombeah in Nairobi
"This is a city badly in need of a shower"
 real 28k

Friday, 18 August, 2000, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
Nairobi's taps run dry
Nairobi children
Water shortages can mean a chance to make some pocket money
By Gray Phombeah in Nairobi

The capital city of Kenya, Nairobi, has been doing without the essentials of life recently.

We are hoping and praying that God will bring us the rain

Nairobi Deputy Mayor Joe Aketch
There have been power cuts to homes and the workplace, and Maasai herdsmen with their cattle have been seen looking for green pastures in residential areas, posing a new hazard to the city motorists.

As if that is not enough, the city residents now have to cope with an acute shortage of water.

All these woes are blamed on the worst drought in 30 years, which has dried up rivers, hydroelectric dams and water taps.

It is a city in need of a shower.

Long queues

Heavy trucks ferrying water from wells outside Nairobi to thirsty neighbourhoods have become a common sight in the city.

Nairobi residents are powerless and now waterless
For weeks taps have been running dry in homes and factories in Nairobi.

There are long queues everywhere as people wait for hours to fill their jerrycans.

And men and woman admit openly they have gone without a bath or clean clothes for weeks.

"We don't have baths anymore," complains one Nairobi resident.

"We don't wash out clothes. There's no water anywhere."

For months now, the water levels in the reservoirs have been dangerously low.

A month ago Nairobi City fathers imposed water rationing in the city, and only managed to make matters worse.

Water trucks

Cashing in have been water sellers who are now working around the clock using flatbed trucks converted into water tanks.

water truck
Some are really cleaning up...
"Of course we are making good money. Sometimes 40,000 shillings [$500] a day, sometimes more," said one.

City officials admit that contaminated water is being sold to thirsty city residents, and the city could also be facing a severe health crisis.

There are blocked toilets in hotel rooms. In restaurants, owners have to pay up to $1,000 a month for truckloads of water delivered from boreholes on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Vicious cycle

Nairobi appears caught in a vicious circle of water and electricity shortages.

Power rationing has been on for months across the country.

And now industries in Nairobi have begun laying off workers as they cut down their production or shut down.

Nairobi queues
... while others are paying the price
Chege Maina, a sales director with Cooper Motors, says they have had to lay off hundreds of people and will have to do so again unless things change.

"The power and the water rationing is affecting the economy so much."

Nairobi's Deputy Mayor Joe Aketch blames the weather for the water shortage and the Kenya Power and Lighting company for making it worse, saying without electricity the little drinking water that is available cannot be pumped into the city:

"We are hoping and praying that God will bring us the rain... It's a natural disaster."

With more than 70% of its population of more than 3m living in slums and more than 60% in absolute poverty, East Africa's largest city seems to be destined for a long spell of misery.

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See also:

17 Jul 00 | Africa
Kenya's powercut chaos
30 May 00 | Africa
Lights out in Kenya
12 Jul 00 | Africa
Kenyans starving, says UN
05 Jul 00 | Africa
Kenya drought warning
15 Aug 00 | Africa
Cattle invade Kenya's capital
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