Kibera: Some Interesting Facts About Africa’s Largest Slum

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Located in Kenya, Kibera is notorious for being one of the world’s largest and most impoverished slums. There is no exact number for how many individuals are living in Kibera, but estimates range from 170,000 to one million people. In Kibera, overcrowding is common and living conditions are in disarray. In Africa’s largest slum, housing conditions and toilets are unsanitary, alcohol abuse and crime is an everyday reality and access to electricity and clean water is limited.

Life in Kibera Slum

Living Conditions in Kibera

The population of Kibera lives in small shacks made up of mud walls and corrugated tin roofs. The shacks are 12 foot by 12 foot and as many as up to 8 people will share one. These shacks are all grouped together into plots, and most plots do not have toilet facilities. Since many of Kibera’s residents do not have access to toilets, they will relieve themselves in the street or by the main railroad that runs through the slum. This causes a major issue for sanitation conditions.

Some Interesting Facts About Africa’s Largest Slum Located in Kenya

Open sewers are also fairly common. If the plot is a larger one, which typically constitutes 50 families, there will be one latrine for the plot to share. Once it is full, boys are employed to empty and clean it. This is usually done by taking its contents and dumping them into the river. Not only is the process unsanitary for those collecting the waste but it also contaminates the nearby water sources.

Alcoholism in Kibera

Life in Kibera Slum
Brewing Changaa is a source of liveihood for many people in Kibera slum – women, children and families all play a part. Image credit ©️aljazeera

Chang’aa, a homemade alcoholic brew, is common in Africa’s largest slum. Because it is cheaper and significantly stronger than a traditional brew, it is more popular. However, if Chang’aa is made incorrectly, it can pose serious threats to those who consume it because contains high levels of methanol . There are charities in place that are attempting to demonstrate how to make Chang’aa in the correct manner so that it is safer to consume.

Largest slums in Africa
Changaa brewers at work

In Kibera, daily crime is a reality for many of its residents. Since more than 50 percent of Kibera’s population is unemployed, many people drink throughout the day, which contributes to Kibera’s problems of widespread crime. In one three-month period, 98.8 percent of residents living in Kenya’s slums reported being witness to a crime. Overall, theft contributes to 35 percent of the crime rates. One study found that the main causes of crimes were the high levels of poverty and unemployment. Kibera also has an extremely high number of gangs in the city of Nairobi.

Basic Necessities in Kibera

Life in Kibera Slum Only about 20 percent of Kibera has electricity, and clean water is scarce. Prior to 2015, what little electricity there was in Kibera was brought in through illegal power connections. Kenya’s national utility started implementing a program to take down the illegal connections and install the correct ones. Since then, electricity has gone from 5,000 households to 150,000 households. A big part of why electricity is so scarce in Kibera is that it is not affordable to most families because so many live on less than a dollar a day.

Along with electricity, many homes are lacking running water, which forces Kibera’s residents to purchase water from private vendors who sell it at a marked up price.

Largest slums in Africa

The water sold to the people is not always stored or sanitized properly, which leads to disease. However, this sold water is not available every day for each village of Kibera. If there is no water in one village, then residents will travel to a neighboring village to collect water, which can take up to two hours. The good news is that there are multiple initiatives in place to facilitate access to water in Kibera.

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Bringing Water to Kibera

Water, until recently, had to be carried by hand from the nearby Nairobi dam and was not safe, leading to outbreaks of cholera. Installing ground water piping was not an option. Kibera is densely populated, and homes are accessed by foot path or makeshift roads, which do not allow for adequate space to install underground piping.

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Life in Kibera Slum

Thanks to the efforts of Kenyan nonprofit Shining Hope for Communities (a grassroots movement that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing critical services for all), an innovative aerial water network held up with wooden poles was installed.

Shofco’s aerial water network consists of overhead pipes supported by wooden poles that connect to 10 water kiosks throughout Kibera, allowing clean water to flow through pipes in the air without fear of tampering by cartels who divert water to private vendors. Effectively, the new system cuts the price of a 20-liter jerry-can of potable water by 60%, from five Kenyan shillings to two. The design can be implemented quickly as it does not involve trench digging and underground pipe laying,

Although this system does not bring running tap water to each informal housing unit in Kibera, it does bring clean, potable water within a much shorter walking distance; residents no longer need to walk to the dam. This has significantly helped with the water shortage in Kibera.

Life in Kibera Slum

Life in Kibera poses a great number of problems; however, there are strategies being put into place by the government and some NGO’s to give a better quality of life to the residents of Africa’s largest slum. Hopefully, with the help of some of these strategies, living conditions will improve.

Quick Facts about Kibera Slum

The 2009 Kenyan census reported 170,070 residents in Kibera, although getting an accurate count is difficult; other sources estimate the population at between 500,000 and more than 1 million.

Kibera is the largest informal settlement in Africa and one of the largest in the world.

Largest slums in Africa

The Kenyan government owns most of the land; only about 10 percent of the population has any tenant ownership.

Living conditions in Kibera are abysmal: most shacks house up to eight family members with few comforts.

Electricity hookups are available to only about 20 percent of the population, but for most, the cost is prohibitive.

Life in Kibera Slum

In Kibera, water is scarce, expensive and can often be contaminated. About two-fifths of Kenya’s 46 million people rely on unclean water sources, such as ponds, shallow wells, and rivers, particularly in rural areas and slums, the charity organization Water.org told to Reuters.

Water, until recently, had to be carried by hand from the nearby Nairobi dam and was not safe, leading to outbreaks of cholera. Installing ground water piping was not an option. Kibera is densely populated, and homes are accessed by foot path or makeshift roads, which do not allow for adequate space to install underground piping.

©Borgen Magazine



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Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.

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