Around the world people use bank machines to access cash: but in the Kenyan capital’s crowded slums, people now use similar machines to access an even more basic requirement — clean water.
In a bid to boost access to clean water, four water dispensing machines have been installed in Nairobi slums that operate like cash machines — with customers able to buy affordable water using smart cards.
It has cut costs dramatically, and is helping improve health, residents say.
“It’s pure and good for cooking, and above all it is affordable,” said Peter Ngui, who runs a small street restaurant.
“I used to get water from far away, but this water system is closer to my place of work.”
Previously people living in Nairobi’s cramped slums struggled to get clean water cheaply.
Without water pipes or plumbing in the tin-hut districts, residents resorted to buying water from sellers who dragged handcarts loaded with jerry cans or oil drums into the narrow streets.
That water was often dirty, sometimes taken illegally from broken pipes.
But the new machines, installed by the government-run Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC), allow people to purchase water directly — and far more cheaply — than before.
Residents load money onto the water smart cards at a nearby kiosk or via payments sent on a mobile phone — a common system of payment in Kenya, which pioneered the sending of cash via phones — then tapping into the machine how many litres they want to buy.
Kenya’s slums earned a grim reputation for “flying toilets” — when people defecate into plastic bags due to a lack of other facilities, which are then hurled somewhere else into the shanty town.