NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 10 – Children living in Nairobi slums are some of the least healthy in the country according to a new report released by Oxfam, a UK based charity.
The report released on Thursday said these children were getting sicker and dying at a higher rate than those in rural areas.
“They get more diarrhea; they are less immunised, they are more likely to suffer from acute respiratory failure and they have breathing problems because of the environment they live in and almost all the children under five have stunted growth,” said Oxfam Country Director Philippa Crosland-Taylor.
She said this was because of the poor living conditions in the slums which had been worsened by the current drought.
The report also stated that in some parts of the capital city, infant mortality rates were double those of poor rural areas, and half of young children suffered from acute respiratory infections and stunted growth.
Acute child malnutrition was also a growing concern.
Ms Crosland-Taylor said the declining income for those in informal employment had led to about 90 percent of poor families skipping or reducing the amount of food they ate.
“These figures were put together in April this year and it is worrying. When you live in the conditions that you have seen in the informal settlements, diseases spread very fast. Sometimes you can argue that this is a pandemic waiting to happen,” she said.
“If you look at the whole sewage situation, a single pit latrine in one of the areas in Kibera can serve up to 150 people in one day, can you imagine what that’s like?” she posed.
The Oxfam Kenya Chapter boss said the urban crisis had intensified over the past year, with people now earning less but having to pay more to survive.
The report warned of a social crisis in Nairobi owing to increasing urban settlements coupled with rising poverty levels.
It said the growing inequality between the rich minority and the poor majority was leaving millions of urban residents living in deplorable conditions with limited or non-existent access to water, sanitation, housing, education and health care services.
“Kenya is facing a new urban time bomb, with millions of Nairobi residents suffering a daily struggle for food and water as the divide between rich and poor widens,” Ms Crosland-Taylor said.
Oxfam warned that the resulting poverty combined with poor governance and ethnicity could have catastrophic consequences.
The organisation accused the Kenyan government of repeatedly ignoring the growing magnitude of the urban crisis, and urged it to invest more funds and resources in improving life for the most vulnerable residents of Nairobi’s slums.
Ms Crosland-Taylor said Projects that improved access to clean water and sanitation, and boost people’s income, were most urgently needed and International donors, who have tended to focus exclusively on rural poverty, also needed to recognise the scale of the urban problem.
It is estimated that Nairobi’s population would double to six million in the next 15 years.
Analysts have also warned that half of all Kenya’s poor would be living in urban areas by 2020 posing a challenge to the already strained basic facilities.
“An increasingly disenfranchised and poverty-stricken urban underclass is set to be the country’s defining crisis over the next decade, unless the Kenyan government and international donors act urgently to address it,” she said.