No words – MEP Delegation to Kenya – Energy for All 2030

Nairobi, Kenya, Nairobi | September 13th, 2011

If you’ve heard of a ‘slum’ chances are it’s Kibera.

‘Home’ to anywhere between 750,000 – 1 million people, Kibera is the largest informal settlement in East Africa (and yet it covers less than 2 miles).

The Kenyan authorities refuse to recognise Kibera and the people who live there, even though it’s one of the first things the decision-makers see in the morning from their grand houses on the hill over-looking the expanse of tin roofs. To acknowledge Kibera would mean that they have a responsibility to provide basic services; water, sanitation, education and electricity – which they won’t commit to.

And so the people exist without them. I use ‘exist’ purposefully. Kibera is, without question, the most miserable and maddening place I have ever visited.

I’m writing this blog late at night as I can’t sleep. Can’t quite process what I have seen. Can’t quite understand how and why families are forced to try and survive in such circumstances.

How is it possible that on this planet of ours, such poverty can exist alongside such plenty?

All that you have heard about Kibera is true … and ten-fold. Free-flowing faeces, huge mounds of waste, homes made from cardboard. No space, no privacy, no dignity. And, amongst all of this, hundreds and hundreds of children and hundreds and hundreds of ‘howareyou’s – an image I just can’t seem to shake.

And yet, there is also an underlying dynamism, energy and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s not life as we know it (and not, in my opinion, life as anyone should know it), but here businesses are established, families grow and people will fight to improve their lives.

But that’s despite, not because of, their circumstances.

I’m humbled, enraged and overwhelmed by Kibera, but the one thing I’m clear on is the need for solutions, however small.

… and thanks to Practical Action and other NGOs there are some. I’ll share them in my next blog (once I’ve had some sleep).


2 responses to “No words – MEP Delegation to Kenya – Energy for All 2030”

  1. macharia Says:

    It is true that living in Kibera -and any other slum for that matter-is a degrading experience. An abundance of filth,scarcity of food, water and other amenities and the ever looming threat of violence. But lets get our facts right even when trying to highlight these issues. The last census , in 2009, put the population at around 250,000. I am sure this information is publicly available and it does not augur well for those who are working there to get such basic facts ‘wrong’. Or is it deliberate?

  2. Karan Says:

    “The Kenyan authorities refuse to recognise Kibera” are you for real. Certainly Kibera has its unique challenges but “biased” or “false” reporting that’s intolerable. Have your facts right please.

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