BY LUCY KIBAKI
The frequent incidents of fire outbreaks and the deplorable living conditions in informal settlements underlines the need to step up the slum upgrading programme in the country.
The recent tragedy that occurred in Nairobi’s Sinai slum due to a burst fuel pipeline is yet another demonstration of the dangers to which Kenyans who live in informal settlements are exposed.
Indeed, as Kenyans will recall, incidences of fire outbreaks in slums in which many lives are lost keep occurring from time to time.
Besides fire outbreaks, informal settlements in the country lack basic social amenities such as water, drainage and sanitation facilities which render slum dwellers prone to disease outbreaks.
Indeed, the lack of vital basic infrastructure renders slum dwellers to a wide range of risks including natural calamities.
In view of the dangers involved in living in slums, there is urgent need for the Ministry of Housing to step up the slum upgrading programme so that more Kenyans can have access to decent shelter.
While long term measures of the upgrading programme are being put in place, there is need to urgently put in place short term measures to ensure Kenyans living in slums are not vulnerable to avoidable risks.
One such measure is the need to ensure that informal settlements are accessible in case of fire outbreaks. At the moment, the innermost parts of many of the informal settlements in the country are not accessible due to congestion. Consequently, many lives that might have been saved are lost and property destroyed.
To avert this cycle of losses of life in our slum areas, I call upon residents of congested informal settlements and neighborhood organisations to join hands with local authorities and relevant government departments with a view to improving living conditions in slum areas.
(Mrs Kibaki is the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya)