Sad lavatory affair in Kenyan slums

July 7, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 7 – Only 24 percent of roughly two million slum dwellers in Nairobi have access to bathrooms and toilets, a report by Amnesty International (AI) says.

Statistics released on Wednesday portray a gloomier picture for women and girls who have to bear the risk of sexual violence and loss of dignity every time they seek the facilities.

A Researcher at AI Godfrey Odongo said the inaccessibility of lavatories in Nairobi’s slums, coupled with the lack of police in informal settlements, made women especially vulnerable to rape.

“The Nairobi slums (and we visited only four as a representative sample of 200 others) have about two million people living in them and of these people slightly over 400,000 have access to at least a toilet within their immediate household. This situation impacts women far worse than it does men,” he said.

The researchers however could not state the approximate number of women who lived in slums and those who could not access lavatories.

Capital News spoke to Jane (not her real name) who lives in Mathare slums. Recently, she escaped rape when four men tried to attack her as she was taking a bath outside her house.

“Where we live, there are no bathrooms or toilets so it is either you take a bath in your house or you wait for the afternoon (when there are no people around) to take it on the verandah. So I was taking a bath outside with my back towards the gate. When I turned around I saw men jumping over the makeshift fence coming towards me but I panicked and ran away,” she said.

When asked whether she reported the matter to the police, Jane said, “No. For what? I only told the elders but nothing has been done to these men and I feel like they are still after me.”

The Amnesty report shows that the only bathroom facilities available were expensive for most slum dwellers and were far between. Most of the people who lived in slums could not afford to pay the Sh5 charged for using the facilities.

Ms Jane added that the charges placed on the available toilet facilities were not affordable. She explained that monthly rent for housing units that contained a toilet and bathroom was Sh1,800 while those without went for Sh1,000.

“The cheapest toilets are Sh2 but if I had to spend Sh2 every time I went to the toilet it would become very expensive for me and my family. I have to do my ‘business’ in a basin or a nylon paper bag and then throw it outside. It’s very bad and dirty,” she said.

Dr Obongo also blamed the government for the loose frameworks that allowed property developers to put up residential houses that are not equipped with ablution blocks. 

“The government has also allowed the haphazard growth of informal settlements so what you find is that physical space is at a premium; that for the government itself constructing a public toilet is a problem because there is no space,” he said.

The study by Amnesty International was conducted in Mathare, Kibera, Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Korogocho slums.


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