Tuesday, January 19, 2010

People Settlements in Eastleigh

The Eastleigh district of Nairobi is infamous for hostility, crime, and Somalis (reportedly, when an oil tanker is pirated, new buildings spring up in Eastleigh).  The youth group Den of Hope kindly toured us through with a four-man protection crew.  The first stop was the free primary education school, a concrete building complex on a plot of open land, typical class size eighty students.  Den of Hope is cooperating with the local government to plant 500 seedling trees, including several on school grounds, as a local climate change action.

The leader of our tour is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable member of the Nairobi People’s Settlement Network, a no-nonsense grassroots organization dedicated to “giving people the tools of knowledge to agitate for their rights”, namely about eviction policies and humanitarian issues.  They also author shadow reports to contradict official state reports.  More about the Nairobi People’s Settlement Network (IRIN News).

by Nels Nelsonby Nels Nelson by Nels Nelson by Nels Nelson

Eastleigh primary school, Den of Hope tree planting, Eastleigh wall painting, Eastleigh streets

There is no waste management in Eastleigh, resulting in massive piles of garbage in many streets.  Once in a long while, the government may remove the piles, but they are immediately replaced.

Our tour extended to two informal settlements within Eastleigh, Kitui Village and Galole.

by Nels Nelson by Nels Nelson by Nels Nelson by Nels Nelson

Galole open water where demolished homes stood, inner Galole, visiting a family, father and child in Galole

The characteristics of informal settlements are insecurity of tenure, poor durability of structures, lack of running water, lack of sanitation facilities, lack of electricity, and lack of improved roads.  Galole is the worst in all categories we witnessed.

We were taken through the neighborhood, which the inhabitants refer to as the Ghetto, by members of Faasik, the only NGO in the area, focused on HIV/AIDS issues, such as awareness and providing food for bed-ridden members.  There are about fifty openly HIV positive members in Galole.

600 Galole families live in small (3 by 4 meter) shanties with muddy floors, no toilets, no water (the closest tap is 1km away, costs 5KSH per jerry can), no drainage, and no washing space.  The structures, re-used patchworks of corrugated sheets, were built by “slum lords” who charge 800KSH per month (8 Euro) rent plus 200KSH security to the local slum gang.  The huts are jokingly referred to as “self-confused rooms” because one tiny, low room represents the bedroom, kitchen, toilet, bathing, etc.  The low rooftops collect trash bags, presumably from flying toilets.

The neighborhood squats on privately owned land.  Recently, the land owner had a part of the neighborhood demolished without any warning to the inhabitants and without replacement dwellings.  The demolished plot is now filled with open water, and is feared to be a breeding ground for malaria.

Galole is figuratively and literally a dead end (the dirty narrow pathways terminate abruptly).  The tenants have little hope of upgrading their lives.  The slum lords will not upgrade their structures.  The government has no interest in upgrading their infrastructure.  When the land owner decides to develop, the inhabitants will simply lose what little they have.