What are the Nairobi Slums?

Red Roof Academy from the air

Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya.  It’s centre is like any modern city but on its parimeter lie vast stretches of densely populated shanty towns, consisting of corrigated iron huts.  55% of Nairobi’s population live in these Slums.

Life is a constant struggle for the inhabitants of The Slums.  Clean water is at a shortage, employment is nearly non existant and HIV and AIDS is at epidemic levels.  The worst of these slums is called Mathare.  Most have come to live in Mathare as the result of a trip gone bad. Most sold what little they had on their farms hundreds of miles away to come to the city where it is rumored that there are good paying jobs. The jobs don’t exist and when the migrants run out of money they end up in the slums. Most have been here for decades. In their own way, they become comfortable there.

There is no electricity, running water or sewers in the slums. Water by the jug, is purchased from those who have illegally tapped the city water main. The rate of HIV infection is difficult to determine since few are tested, but it is assumed that most adults are HIV positive.

Once becoming infected the average life span of an adult is five years due to the lack of any medical attention at all. Amazingly most children are born free of the infection. Those that are infected usually die within months of childbirth, so most school-aged children are free of HIV.  Due to the rate that adults die of AIDS, there are thousands of orphaned children living in the slums. Many live with the oldest child – perhaps 10 years old – being the head of the household in a 8′ x 6′ rusted-tin  shanty where 6 or more may sleep on cardboard.

The unemployment rate in the slums is 70%. Those who can find “day labor” earn about $1.00 to $1.50 per day. A shanty costs $5 to $10 per month to rent. The smell in the slums is something to behold. There is the obvious human sewage. Residents deposit their waste into plastic bags when they can, and throw them either into the ditch in the alley or the ink-black Nairobi river which runs through the middle of the slum. The bags have earned the nickname of “flying toilets”.  There are every form of farm animal in the slum from chickens, pigs, goats, to cows along with their droppings. The most overwhelming smell that emanates from the slum though, is that of burning wood charcoal. This is the way that all cook their meals along the alley-ways.  the consolation is that it disguises the other more offensive smells.

2 Responses to What are the Nairobi Slums?

  1. [...] way out for children is education.  A foundation started by former slum-dweller Julius Mwelu  is giving children the opportunity [...]

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