• Monday, September 1, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Dispatch from Kibera, East Africa’s Largest Slum

    Photo Essay by Aline Cunico

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    Considered one of the biggest slums in the world, Kibera is Nairobi’s–and East Africa’s–largest urban settlement. Over one million people struggle daily to meet basic needs such as access to water, nutrition and sanitation. In this community lacking education and opportunities, women and girls are most affected by poverty.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    Violence against women, rape, prostitution, HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation, poverty, sexual abuse, unequal access to education and lack of reproductive health care are some of the issues women face daily in Kibera.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    One-fifth of the population of Kibera lives with HIV and at least 50,000 children are orphaned by AIDS.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    According to the organisation Carolina for Kibera, young women in slums aged 15-24 are contracting HIV at a rate five times that of their male counterparts.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    As a consequence of the high incidence of HIV in this community, many women like Benta are forced to care not only for their children, but for the children of relatives or neighbours who passed away from the disease. Benta currently provides shelter and food for 32 orphans.

    As the world’s population migrates to urban centres in search of employment and better living conditions, settlements like Kibera grow at a rapid pace, making it impossible to accommodate the needs of so many.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    In Nairobi alone, an estimated  two million people–half of the city’s population–live in slums. Housing in such communities is inadequate and the small percentage of slum dwellers who work in the formal labour market earn an average of one U.S. dollar per day.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    “I have five children to care for and my husband has passed away. I can’t find a job because I am old”, says this woman. Over 50 percent of the available workforce in Kibera is currently unemployed.

    In Kibera and other slums, the level of female illiteracy remains high due to gender inequality. Although primary and secondary schooling is provided in the community, most education centres are informal and unregulated by the government.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    Many parents struggle to meet boarding and uniform costs for their children and give male students priority. As a result, young girls are often forced into early marriages or low-wage salaries.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    Unable to afford education, women are left with few options. Winnie works selling fried fish on the streets of Kibera, earning an average of 10 U.S. dollars a month.

    Nationwide post-election violence in 2008 caused further economic and social insecurity for Kenya’s extreme poor. Many women in Kibera became pregnant in a state of homelessness or lost their husbands during the conflict.

    The lack of sanitation facilities has also contributed to sexual violence, a 2010 Amnesty International report found, as women have become easy targets when walking long distances to reach a latrine at night. Afraid of being raped, women have started using plastic bags to dispose waste on the streets.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    These so-called “Flying Toilets” have contaminated the settlement and increased the incidence of diseases like cholera and dysentery.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    The government of Kenya has never provided health assistance to Kibereans and the few health clinics available were funded by charities.

    Despite anecdotal evidence of women enduring violence daily, there remains a lack of relevant gender-based statistics on Kibera, as the Kenyan government ignores the existence of the community.

    With over 50 percent of Kibera’s population under the age of 15, this means an entire generation struggling to fight gender disparity and escape poverty is being overlooked.

    (IPS/Aline Cunico)(IPS/Aline Cunico)

    home | top