Crime is rife and vigilante groups offer protection – at a price. The police are reluctant to enter the slum.
However, there is a community spirit: homes are kept clean and the residents welcome visitors.
What attempts have been made to improve Kibera?
Practical Action, a British Charity, has been responsible for low cost roofing tiles made from sand and clay and adding lime and natural fibre to soil to create blocks used for building that are cheaper than concrete. These allow self help schemes to progress.
The United Nations’ Human Settlement Programme (UN Habitat) has provided affordable electricity to some parts of the slum at 300 Kenyan shillings per shack.
There are two main water pipes – one provided by the council and the other by the World Bank – at a cost of 3 Kenyan Shillings per 20 litres.
Improving sanitation is more difficult and progress is slow. Charities such as the Red Cross are supporting the improvements. Gap year students are encouraged to go to Kibera to oversee the spending and to help coordinate efforts.
A 15 year project that began in 2003 plans to re-house thousands of residents of Kibera. In the 1 st year of this project, run by the government and UN Habitat, 700 families were re-housed in new blocks of flats with running water, toilets, showers and electricity. Residents have been involved in plans and funding of 650 million Kenyan shillings had been set aside for the first year. Funding is now provided by charities and cheap World Bank loans .
parts of Kibera, one of the largest shanty towns in Africa, were demolished by the Kenyan government recently ( The Guardian , 20 April 2004 ). Bulldozers tore through the slums surrounding Nairobi in preparation for the construction of a new road. Plans for the area were not unknown but land is now in such short supply - population density reaches 80,000 per square kilometre in parts of Kibera - that shanty dwellings had been built there. While Kenya, like Brazil, has given legitimacy to some of its slums, the government must also press on with plans to develop national infrastructure and modernise. Unfortunately, large parts of Kibera are now a physical obstacle to this plan. This reminds us of the fundamental difference between poor areas of housing in MEDCs and in LEDC shanty towns – the latter are usually illegal . Housing is constructed on land that is not being used. However, rights of ownership do not pass to the slum dwellers. Their homes remain vulnerable should the true owner make claim to the land.