Monday, February 23, 2009

A tale of two ghetos

A visit last week to Nairobi's South lands Kijiji over the weekend was very good. It was a stark reminder of Nyalenda in one way but in another way, it was a strong indicator yet that the slum situation in Nairobi may have no comparison in Kenya. The Kisumu area is much better. It reminds me of the first time I visited mukuru. I told myself that nyalenda should never ever be referred to as slum unless we get another definition for mukuru. be that as it may, the basic issues are pretty much the same. issues of lack of water, no toilets, drainage or even roads. In case you have an emergency situation, the ambulance would have no place to pass. The other commonality with Nyalenda is the lack of privacy. normally the 'walls' of the houses are so thin, you can hear the neighbors turning in bed. It is always worse when the turnings are man-made!

But yet one more thing that makes all slums equal is the micro-one-day economy. In nyalenda those days, you could survive on 10 bob each day. and your budget would be very simple:

Kimbo ya kukatwa (the paper wraped Kimbo was
cut into several pieces) 2/=
Unga ya kupima 2 /=
mafuta ya taa (also for cooking) 3 /=
omena bluband ndogo (measured in a used bb tin 2 /=
maji kibuyu moja 1 /=

The 10/= budget was important since you did not need to keep any leftovers as the following day you would be at work (mjengo mostly) during lunch and by evening it would have been spoilt.

In southland's, most house rents are between 1200 and 2500 for the ones with electricity (of course illegal connections) What is very different is that some people living here actually drive and in the evening they park quite good cars in the nearby school or shoping centre. They also take their children to very good schools outside the slum. The slum therefore is only for cheap accommodation.

Another reminder and commonality for all shanties is the presence of hope and despair living side by side like siemese twins. you see the hope in the eager faces of young chilren playing without any inhibition or monitoring. if you buy OMO's marketing rider then only kids in the slum truly learn. on the other side, you see the disillusioned faces of young adults resigning to fate and hopelessness including those already in the tight grip of changaa and other cheap drugs


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