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KENYA: From Nairobi's Kibera slums to 'Canaan'

NAIROBI, 18 September 2009 (IRIN) - At least 1,300 slum dwellers from Kibera - Nairobi’s largest informal urban settlement - have been moved to new blocks of flats under a slum-upgrading programme.

"I can't believe I have left Kibera for good! My new home is so clean, we have a toilet inside the house; it is a dream come true," Pius Okello, 46, father of six, said.

Okello, who had lived in Kibera's Soweto East zone for 10 years, was one of those who moved on 16 September. The government provided trucks and workers to help the residents settle into their new homes, which they have dubbed `Canaan’, the Promised Land.

Kibera is one of the largest informal settlements in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UN-HABITAT, estimates of its population range from 500,000 to 800,000, with densities of over 3,000 people per hectare - one of the most densely populated informal settlements in the world.

The monthly rent for a room in the new flats, about a kilometre from Kibera, is Ksh 500 (US$7) and tenants pay an additional Ksh300 ($4) for electricity and Ksh200 ($2.5) for water. The kitchen, toilet and bathrooms are shared but if a family takes three rooms, they get exclusive use of these facilities.

"I took three rooms because I have six children and I take care of four other children of my dead brother when schools close; at least now my wife and I have our privacy and the children have a bedroom for the first time," Okello said.

"The only problem is that I feel that water and electricity charges are high because they are charged per room; I should be charged a single fee for the whole house."

The ongoing $300,000 Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP) was mooted in 2000, and jointly funded by the government, HABITAT and the World Bank Cities Alliance.


Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
Some of the new blocks of flats, with Kibera in the background
Targeted intervention


Raila Odinga, Kenya's prime minister and member of parliament for Langata, in which Kibera falls, participated in moving the slum dwellers to their new homes.

"Absence of decent housing means abundance of other problems," he said in an address to the residents. "Today, we take the first step towards meeting the basic needs and rights of slum dwellers and saying No to slum related problems. This is an initial step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals."

Nairobi has some of the most dense, unsanitary and insecure slums in the world, according to HABITAT, with almost half of the city's population living in over 100 slums and squatter settlements.

"The objective of the programme is to improve the overall livelihoods of people living and working in slums through targeted interventions to address shelter, infrastructure services, land tenure and employment issues, as well as the impact of HIV/AIDS in slum settlements," according to HABITAT. 

See also:

FILM - Slum Survivors - reality in Nairobi's Kibera

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Theme (s): Environment, Urban Risk,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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