A year later and I’m back in East Africa. This time I’m working on Water Sanitation and Hygiene research for my University in Kibera Slum, Nairobi.
Kibera is one of the largest slums in the world. It’s estimated that 270,000 people live in a 1.5 square mile area of Nairobi that the government doesn’t even recognize. This lack of acknowledgement isn’t a libertarian’s wet dream, but a nightmare when it comes to refuge collection and access to water. Kibera is literally a shanty town built out of trash. The buildings are constructed out of scraps of tin and mud with pieces of plastic bags poking out. The narrow roads are layers of rubbish pounded down and cut through by sewage run-off. Flies buzz around children with open sores. Mangy dogs weakly bask on a bridge that crosses a river made of trash.
NGOs have poured millions of dollars into Kibera for the provision of essential, but absent social services. The logos of the NGOs are prominently displayed on everything from the sides of buildings to the t-shirts of the shanty dwellers. Residents receive all sorts of support from trainings to allotments of free food. However these interventions have yet to lift Kibera out of poverty. It is hard to say if or when the slum will be self-sustaining, but it doesn’t look like it will be anytime soon.