Scarcity, compromised quality and high costs prescribes water access in Kibera, one of the largest slums in sub Saharan Africa, this coupled with unregulated expansion of the slum and visibly substandard sanitation are but among the many challenges faced by the inhabitants of Kibera, Hard hit are women and young girls, who are responsible for fetching water
Evidently, traditional societal challenges are overshadowed when pandemics occur, Covid 19 has not been an exception as ‘Lucy’ narrates of how the prevailing circumstances, coupled with increased vulnerability has exposed her to a rare form of corruption “sextortion”, women are seen as low hanging fruits by the proprietors of this vice as the country struggles to put in place tangible reliable measures to cushion the most vulnerable against the ravaging economic and social effects the pandemic has particularly had on the slum dwellers of Kibera
‘Lucy’, a resident of Kibera, Nairobi County Kenya, recounts an ugly ordeal, this is the story of a courageous woman with the will to carry on after the storm has passed, lest we forget, water is a human right, and such stories vindicate the far we are from achieving the sustainable development goals, especially in Sub Saharan Africa. Public ridicule, humiliation and even worse denial of water by rather shameless water vendors making sexual advances at Lucy have become disdainful normalcies she deals with, their recurrence have put Lucy at the brink of giving up
While Covid 19 remains the defining global health challenge of our time, measures must be put in place to ensure the traditional societal challenges are not escalated. Commendable work has been done by the Nairobi water and sanitation company to ensure accessibility to water by the most vulnerable people, especially in the Nairobi urban slums, but expansion and continued densification, corruption and traditional impunity are at the core of business as usual, putting the residents at risk of and at the mercy of sex hungry water vendors, with the heightened campaigns of WASH as the primary first line of defense, residents of these maligned areas have been forced to engage in unscrupulous events, among them engaging in sex to acquire the precious commodity in this times that is water.
Measures to bring to light sextortion are desperately important as they are measures to curb the vice. The compounded effects of sex for water according to Benazir Omotto of Umande Trust include health associated risks, early marriages and early pregnancies.
It’s saddening that individuals from across the aisle are increasingly becoming hamstrung in impunity at a time when they should cushion the vulnerable against the ravaging scourge. There’s an urgent need for a drastic change of course. Poverty has exposed Kibera residents to committing roundly forced errors, my sadness stems from listening to a distressed ‘Lucy’ battling a scaringly vicious but invisible enemy.
The sex for water project is the dream of better days, while the night might last longer, day will surely come.
Photo Courtesy: Nation Kenya