Kibera – The biggest Slum in Nairobi, Kenya

I just came back from a brief walk through Kibera with Slumcode founder Albert Nashon and Joy Tang. Albert introduced us to Wycliffe Sande, member of the Kibera Community Youth Program. Both of them are young volunteers who aim to upscale the living conditions of the people living in the slums. We’ve had a very intersting conversation with them – please listen to the attached podcast (klick the button below).

About Kibera
There are approx 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the Nairobi population, occupying just 6% of the land. Kibera houses almost 1 Million of these people. Kibera is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world.


Land Ownership
Roofs of KiberaThe Government owns all the land. 10% of people are shack owners and many of these people own many other shacks and sub-let them. All the rest are tenants with no rights.

The average size of shack in this area is 12ft x 12ft built with mud walls, screened with concrete, a corrugated tin roof, dirt or concrete floor. The cost is about Ksh 700 per Month (£6). These shacks often house up to 8 or more, many sleeping on the floor.

The population
All the people are African. The original settlers were the Nubian people from the Kenyan/Sudanese border – they now occupy about 15% of Kibera, are mostly Muslim and are also mostly shack owners. The other shack owners are mostly Kikuyu (the majority tribe in Nairobi) – although in most cases they do not live there but are absentee landlords. The majority of the tenants are Luo, Luhya and some Kamba – these people are from the west of Kenya. There are many tensions in Kibera, particularly tribal tensions between the Luo & Kikuyu, but also between landlord and tenant and those with and without jobs.

People walking alongside a train trackOnly about 20% of Kibera has electricity. UN-Habitat is in the process of providing it to some parts of Kibera – this will include street lighting, security lighting and connection to shacks (this costs Ksch 900 per shack, which in most cases is not affordable).

Until recently Kibera had no water and it had to be collected from the Nairobi dam. The dam water is not clean and causes typhoid and cholera. Now there are two mains water pipes into Kibera, one from the municipal council and one from the World Bank. Residents collect water at Ksh 3 per 20 litres.

In most of Kibera there are no toilet facilities. One latrine (hole in the ground) is shared by up to 50 shacks. Once full, young boys are employed to empty – they take the contents to the river. UN-Habitat and a few other agencies are trying to help and improve this situation but it is painfully slow.

Medical facilities and HIV/AIDS Clinics
Roofs of KiberaIn Kibera there are no government clinics or hospitals. The providers are the charitable organisations: AMREF, MSF, churches plus some others. They do a great job. All people are encouraged to have a free HIV test and if positive to take free generic ARV medicine.

This is cheap alcoholic brew. It is widely available, very strong (over 50% alcohol) and made incorrectly, so is usually very high in Methanol. The cost is only Ksh10 per glass and after a couple of glasses people become very drunk. With over 50% unemployment in Kibera many start drinking early in the morning leading to problems of violence, crime, rapes etc. Several charities are trying to help by showing the Changaa makers how to make the drink less dangerous.

Rubbish in the riverCheap drugs and glue sniffing are an increasing problem. Initially taken to alleviate boredom but then people find themselves hooked. A big challenge to the charities!

Due to many men still not using condoms and the availability of Changaa, many girls become pregnant, at any one time about 50% of 16 to 25 yr old girls are pregnant. Most of these pregnancies are unwanted, resulting in many cases of abortion. This can be very dangerous, particularly in such a poor area as Kibera. Many charities are working on this problem.

Kibera is near the industrial area of Nairobi where up to 50% of the available workforce are employed (usually in fairly unskilled jobs). However, there is still an unemployment rate of 50%. This is why the training and teaching of skills is very important.

Family walking along the roadMost young people in Kibera have nothing to do, obviously it is better for them to have the opportunity to take part in sport and several organisations are working on this.

One thought on “Kibera – The biggest Slum in Nairobi, Kenya”

  1. “The Government owns all the land.”

    Imo, this is exactly why there’s no real & sustainable development possible in Kibera.

    The situation will never change unless the GoK becomes serious about Kibera and comes up with a serious development plan, like the ones we’ve seen in Mumbai (India) (~ contractors building houses of which 50% are given to the poor and so on).

    Everything else like infrastructure, health, sanitation, water, etc. depends on this decision.

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