THE REALITY OF INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS IN NAIROBI
Kariobangi North informal settlement and the slum of Korogocho
Kariobangi North is one of Nairobi’s informal settlements (slums) located approximately 15 kms from Nairobi city centre. It started as a result of the increasing population pressure for houses occasioned by the rural-urban migration in the 1980’s; it essentially grew after the adjacent Kariobangi South estate became fully occupied. A huge percentage of the dwellers are the youth of between 15-30 years, from different tribal and cultural backgrounds. Karibangi North slum boost a population of more than 350,000 people all living in very poor conditions and lacking all fundamental services.
Dwellers of Kariobangi North are prone to high levels of insecurities; lack of water; insufficient disposal of solid and liquid waste; lack of employment; and numerous local brews brewing local drinks that are potentially lethal, but nevertheless common among slum dwellers.
As a result of the above, human right violations have been on the increase and at the same time HIV prevalence rates continue to be on the rise as well as insecurity, violence and a wide spread use of drugs especially among young people, many of whom live on the streets.
Part of Kariobangi is the infamous slum of Korogocho extends over an area of 1.square mile on the Eastern side of Nairobi in the Kasarani Constituency. The informal settlement sits partly on government land and partly on private land. With a population of 120,000 people, Korogocho is the fourth most populous informal settlement in Kenya. The majorities of the slum dwellers are victims of evictions in other areas of Nairobi, others have moved to the slum as a result of unemployment and rural-urban migration.
Whatever is their reason for settling in the Korogocho slum, the people live in congested shacks constructed of mud or scrap metal separated by narrow footpaths which serve both as sewers and drains. Scarcity of running water remains one of the most urgent problems of Korogocho combined with inadequate or missing infrastructures, employment, education, minimum health standards, and general isolation of the slum from law enforcement and social, economic and political development. The informal settlement borders the Dandora dumping site – the largest dumping site in Kenya. Many of the slum dwellers rely on the dumping site to collect used plastic bags, scrap metal, plastic bottles to sell them for economic gain.
Most of the young people in the slums of Kariobangi and Korogocho are unemployed, with little hope of getting any job or what awaits them in future. They are easy prey to negative peer influence, drugs and substance abuse, gangs and crime. Many of them suffer from breakdown in family values, child-headed families, prostitution and alcohol abuse leading to high rate of death due to HIV/AIDS, hence increased number of orphans. Hardships and harsh living conditions coupled with inadequate social services make children in Kariobangi and Korogocho extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases, illiteracy, a bleak future and a vicious cycle of poverty. Most of these youth end up on the streets and survive by sniffing glue to escape from hunger pangs while others scavenge for food at the dumpsite. School age girl spend their days at the dumpsite helping in baby-sitting their younger siblings while their single mothers scavenge for food and other valuables from garbage heaps. These girls hardly attend school.