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Social Connections May Benefit Nairobi's Informal Settlements

“The sight of raw sewerage residues from burst connections and the stench which emerges have become a daily experience for me, as I drive past one of Nairobi’s informal settlements on my way to the office.  My fear is the possibility of a disease outbreak, ” said Grace, a participant in a workshop to develop an Informal Settlements Social Connection Policy.

Grace’s concerns are founded in the harsh realities of the water issues facing Nairobi’s informal settlements. Approximately 60 percent of Nairobi’s population lives in the informal settlements .

“We want to get staff buy-in for this policy and your input is important for its development,” said Engineer Gichuki, the managing director of NCWSC during his opening remarks at the workshop held on September 15, 2010. 

The workshop, organized by Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) with support from WSP, brought together managers and coordinators working in NCWSC. He urged the participants to make meaningful contributions that will go a long way in resolving some challenges currently facing the company, as it provides services to the informal settlements.

In his presentation, Dr. Dennis Mwanza, the deputy chief of party for Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa (SUWASA), described social connection as subsidized first-time water connections that are aimed at benefiting the poor,which are only intended for households.  He said that once implemented, social connections are beneficial to both the informal settlements and the utility.

Once finalized and adopted, the policy will help increase access to water and sanitation services for residents living in Nairobi’s informal settlements, while the company benefits from a reduction of non-revenue water, and an increase in revenue collections.

Other countries in Sub-Sahara Africa where social connection has been implemented include: Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ivory Coast, and Uganda..

“I am happy to be among these great minds to develop a policy that will help to improve the living standards of people in informal settlements.  With access to improved water and sanitation services, the hygiene levels will rise, and as a result, the living standards of the poor will improve,” Grace said.