Kibera, being amongst one of the biggest slums in the world has the biggest number of slum dwellers who undergo many challenges.
One of these challenges is water collection as most shacks do not have running water.
Outbreaks are not that common but when they occur they have devastating consequences. This outbreak came about as the pipes bringing water to the slum passed through a number of unhealthy areas such as sewage and dumping sites and due to pipe leakage and breaks in the pipes the water became contaminated and unsafe for human use. Some thieves had punched holes in the water line so as to get water instead of queuing for hours. Unfortunately, the waste from the open sewer drain mixed with the water, the result was that a cholera outbreak broke out before people realised and so many contracted cholera and died.
Another ongoing problem is the distance from the home shacks to the water collection points. In many cases it could be up to 1k between the collection point and the shack. This forces people, mostly women and girls, to wake up at 4.00 am (it is unsafe for young girls to go out at night) and start the daily routine of fetching water. Females in the slum will often carry one or two 20 litre jerrycans on their backs as they feel its faster and less tiring than using hands and arms. That equates to a weight of 44lbs a can and of course if you are carrying two jerrycans you can double that weight. Some women can make as many as three or four trips a day since the water is needed for different chores. As so many trips have to be made the younger children who are not strong enough to carry the water, stand in the line queuing as the mother and older children rush home to deliver the water and get back for the next refill. The length of time waiting in the queue depends but at times we might wait there for up to three hours for just to get two jerrycans of water.
The water points are situated at water shops at different locations where we go and queue and pay according to the litres used. A standard rate for one 20 litre jerrycan is 5ksh (the equivalent of 4p) yet that is barely enough for one person to use and the larger the family living in Kibera the more trips required. The cost is reckoned to be more than the cost of water in New York or London yet Kibera is one of the poorest places on this planet.Of course the good water is not for washing clothes, for this we go to the streams, that pass by near the settlement, which are free. The streams are also good for bathing the children though they may rinse off with a small bowl of bought water. The fact that a lot of people in the hood do not have toilets and use the river to relieve themselves does not necessarily put people off from washing – if you don’t have the money or time to buy water there is nothing else that a poor family can do.
Today am going to talk to you about how life has been for the youth living in Kibera during this pandemic. By youth I mean the teenagers aged between 12- 18 years of both gender.
Since the government called for a lockdown in March this year, a lot has changed both economically and socially for our community. The opportunity to work and earn a living have been rare; some families are almost facing starvation. Families have relied on good Samaritans for their meals.
The changes that have occurred because of the Corona pandemic seem to have hit the younger generation hardest. These youth are at a stage where they enjoy to socialize, do sports and visit one another. These activities have now been forbidden! Despite the poverty and all the hardships, we who live in the slums face; we like to come together in times of trouble and in times of happiness. It is therefore quite traumatic to be forbidden from meeting or visiting one another. The fidgeting teens were only able to put up with the Corona (Ministry of Health) restrictions for a few months.
A disturbing situation has arisen, we have seen some of our role models return to the slum; there are trained teachers and other professionals (who are on unpaid leave from their jobs) who are now undertaking informal work. Can you imagine college trained professionals are now hawking stuff (bananas, groundnuts and fruits) in the slums and along the roads. These people who we held in very high esteem are now competing with people who have never been to school! This situation has demoralized many youths who have been argued and encouraged over the years to work hard in school so that they could get good jobs and a good life!
Crime and petty thieving have lately become very attractive to the youth, who find this as an easier way to come by some money. The youth are sadly competing with each other – trying to outdo each other in their new found evil way of earning a living.
Some of the parents also encourage their children in engaging in illegal activities due to hunger and poverty, a parent would be heard telling her children to go out and search for food like his /her peers, having knowledge that their peers were involved in crime.
Sadly my brother who is 18 years old, and a fresh secondary school graduate has himself been involved in crime, not because he lacked food but for very silly reasons. My brother has a great need to belong and he has unfortunately joined a local gang, he and his friends steal and sell their ill-gotten wares for a quick buck. Recently my brother and his friends stole some pipes from a local school and tried to sell them. This led to their arrest and my parents being summoned to the chief’s office. My brother shockingly confessed to the crime giving the excuse that he needed cash to take his girlfriend for an outing and that our Mother had declined to give him the cash!
Many young men like my brother would start by engaging in simple crimes then they graduate into hardcore criminals who use guns and break into shops and banks. Sadly these young men do not grow into adulthood as they are gunned down and killed by the Police.
My parents like most of the parents in their shoes have decided to send our brother to our rural home in Northern Kenya to live with our relatives and learn some useful trade. The city is a very dangerous place these days for a youth who has nothing useful to do with the time he has on his hands!