Kibera: Pictures of destitution

It’s difficult to overstate the depressing scenes of Kibera, one of Africa’s largest and most well-known slums. The shantytown covers two-and-a-half square miles and, depending on who you ask, has as many as 1.3 million residents. (Some NGOs and analysts question this figure, suggesting the population is closer to 300,000 and is simply inflated to draw more donor dollars.)

I’ve been reporting on water issues in light of Nairobi’s ongoing drought. Public water service is scarce in Kibera (and at times in much of the city), leaving the poorest of Nairobi’s citizens to turn to the private market where they face price gouging and less-than-stellar water quality.

To better understand, consider that the average working Kibera resident earns maybe 100 shillings (not quite $1.50 dollar) a day, according to some estimates. Many are unemployed and family size averages five or more. Water when I visited was going for 50 shillings per 20 liter jug. As a community activist Chege told me, “Do you think people are getting enough water then? No. Absolutely No. Not possible.”

Infrastructure is old, brittle and provides capacity far below demand. Wells are mostly contaminated with sewage and garbage that flows freely down many “drainage” routes (i.e. ditches). Leaking pipes also mix with putrid waste.

A river once bordered the southern edge of Kibera, but it has disappeared as garbage has filled in as the waterway dried. Toilets are also rare (and mostly unsanitary when found), increasing the potential for wastewater to mix with drinkable sources.

Simply put, safe water is out of reach for much of Kibera.

Above are a few photos from a trip through Kibera, led by Chege, who has helped out various NGOs in the past and now runs a small pub in Kibera. Note: People there are at times sensitive about their pictures being taken, hence why faces are obscured or people have turned their backs. Also, as the slum isn’t the safest place in the world, these were taken with the Canon point-and-shoot.

I’ve met with other NGOs and companies working to address water issues in Kibera and I’m talking to the United Nations as well. I’m headed back to the slums when I return to Nairobi after two weeks in Madagascar.

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2 Responses to “Kibera: Pictures of destitution”

  1. Royal Says:
    October 6th, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Have you Superdomed Madagascar yet?

  2. ADAM JADHAV » Blog Archive » Things Africa taught me Says:
    October 27th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    [...] feet get really dirty. Especially when I spend several days walking through slums with open sewers [...]

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