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Photo Essay: Nairobi's Kibera Slum

Luke In Kenya Part 2: Nairobi’s Kibera Slum [Photo Essay]

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Woman with Child Kibera

Luke in Kenya: Part 2

“Luke in Kenya” is a travel series from Managing Editor Luke Armstrong as he travels to Kenya to visit the homeland of his adopted brother.

Nairobi’s Kibera slum is Africa’s second largest. Most families subsist on less than $1 a day. Though present (and often highlighted by the media and NGOs), desperation is not the rule here. By our Western standards, Kibera is a place with atrocious living conditions. But most here are there by choice, escaping hungry conditions in the countryside to find opportunities and work. It reminds me of the 1860’s New York as portrayed in Gangs of New York. In Kibera you find excitement; hustle and bustle. As the Economist aptly pointed out, “Kibera may be the most entrepreneurial place on the planet.”

Kibera is by no means an easy place to live. To fill your belly, every day requires hard work and ingenuity.

Outskirts of Kibera

Kibera’s populations swells and contracts from 600, 000 to 1.5 million. They often shrink during elections years (March 4, 2013, is the next one) when tensions between the 42 different tribes cause people to get out of Dodge.

Kibera Road

The first thing you see when you walk out of your house in Kibera is your neighbor. Families, sometimes as large as eight people, live in a single room. Up to 100 families will share a latrine. Because of the price to empty them, these overused latrines often overflow. When this occurs, some families resort to defecating in plastic bags that at night they throw into the street. These are aptly called “flying toilets.”

Gas Station in Kibera

There are two parts of Kibera: the legal and the illegal. In the illegal side, fires are a constant threat due to indoor cooking practices inside the cluttered mud huts.

Haphazard Electricity

When it rains, the haphazardly connected electrical wires are a major threat, often resulting in injury and death.

Water System Runs Past Open Sewage in Kibera

Kibera has an open sewage “system.” The plastic water pipes that run over the raw sewage often develop holes, resulting in contamination.

Kids in Kibera With Toy Cars

But, of course, kids enjoy toy cars in Kibera as they would anywhere.

Kibera Trio

According to one resident, “Everyone comes to the slum through another person. You can’t just come today and start living. No one would accept you.”

Kibera Movie Theatre

For entertainment, a mere 40 cents will allow you to catch a flick in Kibera.

Sister with Sister

There is no police station inside the slum. They are located outside. “For them to follow your case, you need to bribe them,” one resident informed me. Normally they go to the chief.

By Luke Maguire Armstrong

Read the entire “Luke in Kenya” series here.


About the Author

LukeArmstrongAfter setting out to hitchhike from Chile to Alaska, Luke Maguire Armstrong stopped in Guatemala where he spent four years directing the social service programs of the charity Nuestros Ahijados. He is the author of, iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About (available for sale on which is especially enjoyed by people “who don’t read poetry.” (Follow Luke on Twitter: @lukespartacus). His new book, How We Are Human, was recently released.

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