A small stream of dirty water continues to spill over the main road in Korogocho, a rather calm indication of the havoc that was experienced a few days earlier when the road was flooded with raw sewage thanks to the rains and uncollected garbage that had settled around making it impassable.
A rock has been placed strategically on the pavement to help pedestrians not to step into the dirty water safely cross the road.
It is difficult not to notice the dreadful site. Right next to the burst drainage area are squeezed-in iron-sheet shacks where residents have constructed a makeshift bridge to help them access their homes.
The spillover of dirty water and garbage is behind the Mama Margret Kenyatta Level 5 hospital in Korogocho.
Had everything gone according to plan, this hospital would have alleviated the suffering of the local populace.
But the reverse is true.
Bearable living conditions
Whenever a majority of Kenyans pray for more rain, for residents of Korogocho, no rain means bearable living conditions.
This is not the first time the drainage leakage has happened.
A Twitter user Hanifa (@Honeyfarsafi) has been vocal about the state of the road and the contribution of authorities to the current mess.
For Musili Mutisya, a small business operator in Korogocho, the interview with this writer offers him a deja vu moment -only that it’s real.
“I have seen so many people like you (journalists). They come here to do interviews and take pictures but nothing happens. When they leave that is it. If you look carefully at the road you will see that they came and dug it out and put in a very small culvert, to redirect the water to pass underneath the road and back into the drainage on the other side of the road. When it rains the volume and strength of water is strong that sometimes cars are pushed by it,” Mr Mutisya said.
“I sell shoes here by the roadside but on Tuesday morning I could not work, the water was all over the place. They need to put in a bigger culvert that can help take in all the water. Working in this area you are always alert looking for any signs of rain,” he said.
But things were not always like that. What was meant to be a saviour has turned into a source of misery for locals.
Mixture of sewer
Mama Margaret Kenyatta Hospital is built directly on the drainage pathway, resulting in the collection of a mixture of sewer and stormwater to accumulate in the area with nowhere to go.
“I am born and raised here and I can remember the drainage here has not been like this. The problem began when the hospital was built it blocked the drainage. (When the hospital was being built) Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company came to try and help the situation by diverting the drainage but it seems their idea of a solution is also not working,” local Nyumba Kumi chairman John Mwangi said.
“This is a deadly place. We have had people fall and drown. On the surface, it looks like a shallow place but this part where the water and garbage have accumulated is actually 10 feet deep,” he said, demonstrating it with a long piece of wood.
When it rains he says his job is to carry students going to school across.
Previously known as the Mathare-Korogocho Level 5 Hospital, Mama Margret Kenyatta hospital recently opened its doors to the public after more than a decade of stalled construction.
Construction of the facility started in the early 1990s but was grounded. However, the now-defunct Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) was, in 2020, tasked to ensure its completion.
The Sh400 million refurbished hospital was expected to reduce the patient load at Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital, also a Level 5 facility, which serves more than 2.1 million people in the Eastlands area.
We could not get a comment from the Nairobi County administration that has since taken back all the functions that were once surrendered to NMS.
Johnson Sakaja-led administration
However, Nairobi Water defends itself against accusations of building a smaller detour of the drainage, laying the blame squarely on the Johnson Sakaja-led administration.
“We have to include room for development that is why we had to create a diversion for the drainage. I believe the issue is at the entrance of the pipe where the screen is blocked. Somebody needs to be collecting the garbage --and that is not us (Nairobi Water)--, to ensure that the water flows freely. I have instructed my officers to go and remove the screen maybe this will help both the garbage and water to drain, Nairobi Water and Sewerage managing director Nahashon Muguna told Nation.Africa.
Member of County Assembly for Korogocho Absalom Odhiambo says that more needs to be done. He adds that if all key stakeholders come together a permanent solution can be found.
“I have tried having a dialogue with MCA Kariobangi because, to be honest, the garbage comes from his side. Garbage is just thrown on the roadside and when it rains it is collected by the water which drains here. When I engaged the county government I was told that Korogocho has been assigned two people to clean the area, and of the two one is a supervisor. So it does not make sense that only one person is charged with cleaning,” Mr Odhiambo lamented.