Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, and one of the biggest in the world, housing around 1 million people. The land makes up around 5% of Nairobi’s landmass, and yet nearly 50% of the country’s population live there, making it one of the most densely populated places in the world.
A fifth of children die before their 5th birthday, and around half of Kibera’s population are children under the age of 15, many of whom have been orphaned by AIDS.
Life in Kibera can be unimaginably difficult. There are no government clinics or hospitals, and all medical care is provided for by charities. These offer free HIV tests and provide free ARV medication. It is thought that around 60% of Kibera’s population suffers from HIV. Condoms are rarely used, and it is thought that only a small percentage of Kibera’s population even understand that condoms can prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The residents of Kibera tend to live in small shacks, built with mud and concrete, which can often house up to eight or more people. Fresh running water is not available to the majority of homes, and just 20% of Kibera has electricity. Kibera is owned entirely by the government, and around 90% of the population rent their home.
Very few girls ever have the chance to go to school and many girls resort to trading sex for food, which sadly often leads to HIV and a huge number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, which can be very dangerous as Kibera does not have the facilities to perform such procedures.
Due to high levels of unemployment, drinking Changaa is a popular pastime. Changaa is a very cheap and very strong alcoholic drink, and it is widely available. The literal Swahili translation of the word Changaa is “kill me quick”. Because it is not usually made correctly, Changaa is often high in Methanol, side effects of which can include blindness and death, and drinkers tend to get very drunk very quickly. The consumption of Changaa and the use of drugs often lead to an increase in violence, crime and rape in the slum.
Water has recently been made available, with two main water pipes, but prior to this, water had to be collected from the Nairobi dam, which led to many cases of cholera and typhoid as the water is not clean. There are also limited toilet facilities in Kibera, and many people simply have to use a hole in the ground, or opt to create ‘flying toilets’ where they go to toilets in a plastic bag and then simply throw it into the street.
In spite of high levels of unemployment and a lack of education, Kibera is often seen as a very entrepreneurial area, and although life expectancy in Kibera is just 30 years, (a significant difference to the rest of Kenya, where the average life expectancy is 50) the residents harbour hope and a desire to improve their lives.