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Nyalenda and Manyatta Slums in Kisumu City Western Kenya - the Epitomes of Poverty and Neglect Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Antony Felix O. Simbowo, Kenya Mar 17, 2006
Child & Youth Rights , Environment , Poverty   Short Stories
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A walk through the narrow, filthy gangways, crawling with criminals, hunger, disease, and seedy housing, in the Nyalenda and Manyatta slums leaves one asking whether there are proper policy frameworks in the Kenyan nation to take care of people living under such poor and unhygienic conditions. The two areas are composed of a multitude of crumbling mud walled hovels, on whose verandahs you will meet young men, women, the aged, and even children barely in their teens, in a state of cheap drug-induced hypnosis. Their dazed, rustic blood shot eyes, a show of escapism from the surrounding hopelessness, would give an observer a hint of their journey through life’s school of hard knocks.

The children you meet within the areas’ dark narrow streets and alleys are themselves shabbily dressed, with some walking naked and playfully swimming in mud, oblivious of what goes on around them. The congested tin roofed housing, coupled with garbage heaps, and streams of sewage, poses a grave health disaster to the slum dwellers. Rows of open air chang’aa (cheap local spirit) and busaa (cheap local beer) dens and distillers line the terrain of Nyalenda and Manyatta slums in Kisumu City. Here, lone strangers are viewed suspiciously. Walking through the slum with a resident increases the level of trust.

‘Flying toilets’, the phenomena whereby the slum residents relieve themselves in polythene bags, due to the lack of a sewage system, and then throw the bags carelessly about the estates, is a common feature. The ‘flying toilets’ and the flow of raw sewage from the Nyalenda slums into nearby Lake Victoria; the second largest fresh water lake in the world, not only endangers the aquatic ecosystem, but also the lives of the slum dwellers who use the lake waters for consumption and domestic purposes.

The raw sewage has also been reported to aggravate the water hyacinth weed problem by providing it nourishment. The obnoxious weed has clogged the lake for quite some time now, reducing its fish capacity by trapping the fish, as well as reducing the breeding grounds. This therefore, threatens the livelihood of the fisher folk, who rely on the lake as a source of food and income.

Criminal gangs have been known to operate stealthily within the two slums, silencing perceived enemies and police informers. Police officers, who venture into the neighborhood, are themselves not assured of security. Many have been assaulted, some killed, while others have been beaten and left for dead. The two slums crawl with lawlessness as if they’re countries unto themselves. Just recently in January 2006, three university students were murdered in Manyatta slums in a gruesome incident after a petrol bomb was thrown on their house.

In the year 2005 alone, the Kenyan government spent a whopping Kenya Shillings 650 million (about US $ 8 million) on a study named, "Geographical Dimensions of Wellbeing in Kenya; Who and Where are the Poor?". The report, released in November 2005, indicated that Nyanza province, with capital City Kisumu, is the poorest region in the country, with poverty levels of 65%. The report explained that the poverty problem is a web of low levels of aspiration; lack of proper government planning; hostility towards authority; and authoritarian child rearing methods. It indicated that the search for short run satisfaction over long term goals, unstable marriage patterns, and lack of education were some of the major driving factors towards the poverty trap.

An October 2004 report by the Society for International Development titled, "Falling Apart: Facts and Figures on Inequality in Kenya" ranked Kenya among the most unequal countries in the world. Similarly, the United Nations Capital Development Fund slates Kenya as the 20th poorest world nation. The Kenyan government says it needs Kenya Shillings 468 billion (about US $ 6 billion), to reduce poverty bowls by 20%. Another report by the UNHABITAT showed that slum dwellers will triple from the current 1 billion by the year 2050. Between 1990 and 2000, the report indicated, the world’s slum population increased from 700 million to 900 million.

While noting that the slum problem in the developing world, and Kenya for that matter, came up as a result of years of incessant ‘lutocracy’ and a lack of accountability by the leaders of the day. It is only wise that clear policy guidelines be developed and implemented to cater for the country’s millions of slum dwellers, who form part of the 60% of those living below the poverty line.

These policies would involve restructuring the land ownership system within the Manyatta and Nyalenda slums; designing and putting into place humane sewage systems, as well as improving the infrastructure network of roads, electricity and water supply. The developing world governments should realize that the slum dwellers are part of their countries and therefore, deserve equal share of their national cakes.


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Antony Felix O. Simbowo

TakingITGlobal has never been more apt than it is now in providing a forum for expression. This is because the dynamic world has undeveloped challenges that pose a great problem to the growth and daily life of any youth in the global society. What with the incessant wars, poverty, HIV/AIDS, pornography, racism and several other vices creeping into the society in a culture best objectified as vicious gradualism.
Here is where writing comes in handy and the TakingITGlobal literati, glitterati and pundits alike have provided a vital conduit through which these vices, positive and negative dynamism can be expressed.
I am saddened for example, when a promising youth is reduced to a hopeless parasite by drugs. More saddening is when I see the mercilessness, the hopelessness, the dereliction, the lack of love that many children, youth and people are subjected to due to wars, poverty, pornography and such as other negativities which silently and slowly kill the spirit and will within humans! Having gone through such experiences myself, I pray that God gives me the massive ability to be able to help these people to the best of my ability with His guidance, provision and protection. I have often wondered whether the expression "do unto others what you would have them do unto you" is being subjected to relativity. These are the problems which need highlighting and what better forum is there than TakingITGlobal.
I am privileged to be part of this ideologically vimmed and gustoed community.

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