The Kibera Slum
The Kibera Slum, located in Nairobi, Kenya, is the largest informal settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa. The British colonial government established Kibera during World War I when Nubian and Boran soldiers were allotted small plots of land as a reward for their service in the war. In the 1960s when Kenya gained independence, Kibera was declared an illegal settlement by the government. However, because of it’s proximity to the city and low-cost rental prices, the area continued to grow. Today, Kibera’s population is estimated to be between 500,000 and one million people, representing approximately one-third of Nairobi’s population. There are twelve villages in Kibera: Kianda, Soweto, Gatwekera, Kisumu, Ndogo, Lindi, Laini Saba, Silanga, Undugu, Makina and Mashimoni. Nubians, Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya and Kamba tribes make up the majority of residents. Power of Hope Kibera (POHK) focuses its work in the village of Silanga, which is home to 43,000 residents. It is located deep within the slum, approximately a 20-minute walk from the outskirts of Kibera. Although this is a high-need area, very few aid organizations focus their efforts in this village because of its difficult access.
Kibera is a maze of small, twisting, uneven footpaths. Although some work has been done to enlarge and pave main roads entering Kibera, cars do not typically venture beyond the outskirts of the settlement. Tiny homes line every road and footpath; they are typically one-room huts made of tin sheets, mud, wood, and dirt. An average of seven people live in each home. Some huts have a small window but many don’t, so they are dark inside even during the day. Homes have no kitchen – no stove, microwave, or refrigerator. Instead, most people use a charcoal-fueled burner for cooking. There is also no running water in the homes; instead water is collected in 20 liter buckets at community taps and then stored.
Water pipes lay on the ground uncovered and are susceptible to illegal tapping. On the positive side, the illegal tapping allows water to be re-routed to areas that may otherwise not have water access. However on the negative side, illegal taps are often poorly constructed, allowing for sewage to seep into the pipes, contaminating the entire water system. Homes do not have private toilets. Communal pit latrines are common. Up to 150 people may share a single latrine and it is not unusual to see latrines filthy and over-flowing. It is not safe to use latrines at night (especially for women). Instead, people are forced to use “flying toilets,” which are plastic bags used for defecation, and then discarded. Open sewage, trash and flying toilets fill the gutters and overflow onto the streets, which greatly impacts the health of the community. Major diseases in Kibera include malaria, tuberculosis, measles, HIV/AIDS and waterborne diseases. Diarrheal disease represents a huge problem in Kibera. In Kenya where 12.8% of children die before reaching five years of age, 21% of those deaths are due to diarrheal disease. In Kibera more children die – 19%, and 40% of those deaths are due to diarrheal disease.