Most of us would have heard of Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. It’s a massive squatter city of over 600 acres with more than a million inhabitants. It’s possibly the most densely populated place on the planet and it sits right in the centre of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. See the link following for the highly informative Oneworld.net television doco about Kibera.
Most of Kibera is built on piles of rubbish which subside and lead to regular building collapses. The whole place is prone to flooding and is heavily polluted by soot, dust, and other wastes. Open sewage routes also contribute to contamination. The combination of poor nutrition and lack of sanitation accounts for many illnesses. It is estimated that nearly a quarter of the 2.2 million Kenyans living with HIV live in Kibera. It’s a way of life so completely desperate it’s beyond the comprehension of most of us.
The BBC reported earlier this week (see here) that the Kenyan government has begun a long-term movement scheme which will rehouse all of the slums inhabitants. The clearance of Kibera is expected to take up to five years to complete - all residents are to be rehoused in brand new affordable housing around the city. The project has the backing of the United Nations and is expected to cost $1.2 billion. The new communities are currently being built and will include schools, markets, playgrounds and other facilities.
The first group of 1,500 people to leave Kibera were moved out on 16 September and were rehoused in 300 newly constructed apartments with a heavily subsidised monthly rental.
The removal process has now been challenged though and the Kenyan High Court has now ruled that the government cannot begin proper demolition works until the case is heard in October. The 80 plaintiffs that have filed the case are mainly middle-class landlords who lease the slum dwellings to the impoverished.
The rehousing effort is a fascinating and dramatic exercise in socialised housing on what must be the biggest scale ever attempted. There is significant risk that rehoused residents may have to share apartments with other families in order to afford the rent or that they might even move back to Kibera and rent their new homes to middle-class families so as to have money for food. Let's all hope that the Kenyan government, with the help of the UN and contributing nations, can find a way to mitigate these risks and make this work. 600,000 children deserve better.