Time for Kenyans to go back to issues that really matter to us

The media gives the people what they want, unless they happen to be on the receiving end of adverse coverage.

Saturday February 27 2016

President Uhuru Kenyatta with other dignitaries shortly after opening the 18th African Water Association Congress  at the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC) in Nairobi on February 22, 2016. The real important happenings never receive more than a cursory treatment before they disappear from the news pages and television screens. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU |

President Uhuru Kenyatta with other dignitaries shortly after opening the 18th African Water Association Congress at the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC) in Nairobi on February 22, 2016. The real important happenings never receive more than a cursory treatment before they disappear from the news pages and television screens. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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All this week, we have been regaled with sensational tales of grand thievery, injudicious hanky panky, and highly-charged political chicanery.

There has been no end to the drama, the kind of thing Kenyans want to read about and watch on television.

This fascination, though merely transient, has unfortunately made us behave as though nothing else is going on in the country.

A closer scrutiny at the week’s events, though, will reveal that plenty is happening, but it keeps getting buried in an avalanche of revelations, accusations, counter-accusations, and sworn affidavits (the latest buzz-word in the public lexicon) drafted by suspected crooks after falling out once rumbled.

This is a pity because the real important happenings never receive more than a cursory treatment before they disappear from the news pages and television screens.

LACK OF COVERAGE

Has anyone else but those directly involved realised that a crucial continental conference has been going on in Nairobi for the past four days of the week?

As far as I can tell, the only time the 18th African Water Association Congress was in the news was when President Uhuru Kenyatta opened it on Monday.

Since then, I have been checking to see the daily happenings and the resolutions reached, but all in vain.

The only time people may expect to read accounts of what transpired will be days after the congress ended.

This is a huge shame, but hardly surprising.

Of course the water crisis facing this continent, and Kenya in particular, can never be as “sexy” as when millions of shillings looted from public coffers are stuffed into briefcases or when hairdressers become multi-millionaires overnight. Now, that is the stuff of news.

But I don’t blame the media too much.

No media house can afford to dwell on yawn-inducing stuff like water stress and how to cure it when it is so much more fun revealing which VIP will be busted next with his or her hands in the till.

On the whole, the media gives the people what they want, unless they happen to be on the receiving end of adverse coverage.

WATER CRISIS

Anyway, to cut to the chase, on Monday, President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed 1,500 delegates from various African countries and told them what they perhaps already knew: That Africa simply does not have enough clean water for its population, and there is a need for all the countries, either jointly or singly, to take urgent measures to conserve what little there is.

According to statistics, more than a billion people in the world do not have access to clean water, and 300 million of them live in Africa.

Kenya itself is hard-hit by this reality because two-thirds of the country is either arid or semi-arid, and just above half the population has access to safe water to drink or for other domestic uses.

We are talking about at least 20 million Kenyans living without any reliable source of water, and when available, it is so badly polluted as to become a haven for dangerous disease vectors.

Also, due to rapid rural-urban migration, a huge population of slum denizens does not have access to water and sanitation at all.

This is not to say that those who live in rural areas are any better off, but at least most rural folks dig pit latrines which do not require water.

WATER CONTAMINATION

All they have to contend with is water contaminated by effluents produced by coffee and tea milling factories.

And here we are talking about those rural areas in which major or seasonal rivers flow.

Others are not so lucky. In most arid and semi-arid areas, water is not to be had at all, except after a great deal of struggle.

Women and children have to trek all day to the few water-points available while the men must, of necessity, move from place to place in search of water and pasture for their animals.

This, of course, has economic and security consequences.

Is it any wonder that vast swathes of the north have never been tamed and inter-communal violence and rustling have become so predictable and so deadly?

It is a pity that political exigencies seem to have replaced common sense.

Kenyans must start getting exercised about issues that matter to their own welfare and that of their progenies.

At the top is how to access, conserve and distribute water, for indeed, this stuff is life.

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