A few days ago, in the late afternoon, two men stopped a taxi driver at a junction in Soweto East, Kibera. They were thieves running from a crime and needed a getaway ride to Kirangari. The driver refused so the men asked him to just take them to Ndugu stage, a much closer destination, instead. He agreed, but by then the thieves had changed their mind. The taxi driver was shot in the head.
Need a ride?
As you can see from the video, I often pass through Soweto East on my way to work. I haven’t seen the story covered in any of the local papers, but I know the junction where the murder took place very well. It’s just a short distance from the school where we’ve been fixing water tanks and the church where we’ve been giving hygiene trainings. From word of mouth, I’ve learned that the crime scene happened at the point where the tarmac on the road turns to dirt. Cars often get stuck there trying to get over an exposed drainage pipe. The incident is typical of the stories of violence I’ve heard about Kibera. Journalist and residents alike weave this element into their narratives of drugs, rape, and filth that make up this slum tragedy. Continue reading →
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.
Children relieving themselves along the banks of an already polluted river.
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.
Junior surveying the neighborhood.
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. Continue reading →