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Who Wants to Live in a Slum?

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A Slum in Nairobi City A Slum in Nairobi City

I was recently in a social gathering when someone commented, “Did you read about the people given good houses who abandoned them to go live in the slums.” As the conversation went on I asked myself:” Who really wants to live in a slum? Who really could be offered to live in Lavington and turn it down for living in the slum? Who really loved these conditions so much?”

Housing in slum areas  is mostly composed of houses that are not planned and are mainly built with mud, iron sheets, wood and carton paper. When it rains there is no guarantee that the rain water will not enter the house.

Water is a basic commodity that a human being has to take every day but which is difficult to come by in a slum.  To survive, residents have to buy the water from vendors who charge them a fee.  The water itself is not usually very clean and safe for consumption, it is sometimes mixed with sewage and industrial chemicals but since it is not readily available, residents take the little water that is available knowing full well the consequences of their action.  
Basic sanitation is also a problem in slum areas.  Garbage is disposed anywhere and this leaves the place with a stench that deprives residents of the fresh air they so badly need.  The culture of dumping garbage anywhere one feels like is deeply rooted in people and so they contribute to their own discomfort when they dispose of garbage anywhere they feel like.

Toilets are also a problem in slums as one relieves themselves anywhere and throws it in passing rivers or pits commonly known as flying toilets.  This also posses a danger to the residents as the waste is thrown in water that residents use to wash and clean.

Health risks are in plenty in slums considering that sanitation and water is a problem.  Disease out breaks like typhoid and cholera are common.   Malaria also kills in record numbers as mosquito nets are hard to come by and treatment of malaria is done with sub-standard drugs. Proper medical attention is rare and most people do self medication.  Chemists thrive in such areas and on most occasions sell cheap generic drugs or even expired ones.

Slums can be termed as secure places to live.  Residents are too poor to be robbed but insecurity does exist in slums.  This may happen mainly because people have a motive to end their lives over petty feuds to do with money.  You may be surprised to see someone being killed over Kshs.100 which may seem small to some people but it is much to other people.  Most young adults also engage in drug abuse and take illicit brews just to entertain themselves.  Trafficking of drugs starts in this way and is sometimes seen as a ticket out of poverty

Fires are very common in slums as houses are built adjacent to each other and made of materials that ignite fires.  Most residents cook with paraffin stoves and this adds to the problem.  Unfortunately, this leads to unnecessary deaths especially of young children who are usually left at home unattended.

Most slum dwellers are casual laborers and are usually forced to walk long distances seeking work.  They survive from hand to mouth and are usually not picky when it comes to the kind of work they do.  Women too have to work as they cannot depend on their husbands to bring home food as it is never enough.  This being the case, they end up working as house helps leaving their kids unattended just to be able to provide for their children who they leave at home  unattended.

Hawking is also another way of raising income.  Most of these people go to hawk in the city streets and in traffic jams just to make ends meet.  They also carry back-breaking luggage for people in town for long distances all in the name of raising an income.

Most slum children do not go to good schools not because they cannot afford the fee as primary education is free in Kenya but because they do not value education.  These children are brought up in very hopeless situations and believe that they need to work in order to help their parents in providing for their daily needs.

The best forms of entertainment in slums are the local videos that they show at a fee.  Young children and adults flood these venues just to be able to watch a movie.  Football or soccer shows are the most common as residents try to follow the different leagues that go on.  This is a good way of socializing and forgetting their problems. 

After looking at all these issues surrounding living in a slum, I don’t think any normal human being given a chance to eliminate some of these worries would say no. 

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