Wednesday, November 4, 2015
I don’t know if I am going to be able to find any words for today’s blog. Anyone who has lived in a big city in America thinks they know what a slum is. They think it is that rundown neighborhood where thugs and drug dealers hang out. Or where the government built subsidized housing, where the poorest of the poor would live, but those apartments only attracted rats and other lowlife. Or the working class section of town became the lower class section when industry in the city went belly up.
But travel to a third world country. Find out what a slum is there.
Welcome to Kibera Slum, the largest slum in Africa and one of the largest in the World. Home to anywhere between one quarter of a million to a full one million people, depending on who you talk to and what time of year it is.
There are no real buildings. Homes and businesses are constructed of handmade bricks and corrugated tin and sheets of warped plywood and the sacks which 50 pounds of flour or cornmeal had come in or plastic shopping bags.
Welcome to a world where there is no sanitation system, no garbage removal.
There are electric wires running into the slum, and resourceful people will splice into these wires for free electricity into their homes. Sometimes these wires are live, sometimes they aren’t. On any given day there won’t be any electricity going into the slum.
There are two water lines going into the slum. Two! For a quarter of a million people, or four times that many. Two water lines.
There are schools in the slum. Some even claim they are free to attend, but the children still need to wear uniforms, which their parents cannot afford, and supply their own supplies, which their parents cannot afford.
The few medical facilities in the slum are run by charitable organizations, organizations with limited funds and even more limited staff. The number of HIV residents is extremely high. ARV drugs are available but many people don’t get them.
You can imagine the crime, the drugs, the unwanted pregnancies.
Somehow, the residents rise above all of this. One group of men run a business making jewelry from bone.
The name Kibera comes from the Nubian word for forest or jungle.