Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Life assurance policies

ICE NewsClearing shacks to provide room for sanitation and a clinic in a Nairobi slum has helped save lives. Ruby Kitching reports.

Slum and model are words rarely linked, but Kianda village in Kibera, Nairobi, breaks the rule.

Since 1997, Kianda's residents have been working hard to banish disease and crime from the slum, making it a clean and safe place to live. It is the project aid agencies and United Nations officials visit for inspiration.

ICE president Colin Clinton and representatives from the Engineering Without Frontiers commission visited Kianda last month to see how basic engineering can change life for people living on the poverty line.

Kibera has a population of anywhere between 450,000 and 1M living in an area of 110ha - equivalent to one person per 2.4m 2 to 1.1m 2.

Until last year in Kianda, tin roofed shacks huddled shoulder to shoulder, with residents defecating in the tight spaces between them.

There was no water or sewerage. When it rained, raw sewage swished into the shacks spreading filth and disease.

People living in slums do not have any land rights even though they have lived there for many years. In Kianda this meant that they could be turfed out by the government whenever it decided to develop the land, so there was no impetus to provide basic water facilities, drainage or toilets.

The story of Kianda's improvement began nine years ago when 30 members of the community decided that something had to be done to improve conditions.

They attracted the interest of UNICEF, Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) and health charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). The charities directed funds and knowhow to build a clinic, toilets, drainage channels and water tanks.

But getting the project off the ground was not easy - all these services needed room and relied on people's homes being relocated to the outskirts of the slum.

We had to convince residents that building a new toilet block would benefit everyone, ' says John Kachok, a member of the urban slums secretariat at the Kenyan ministry of land and housing.

The government only lent its support last October as part of the United Nations human settlement programme's Kenyan Slum Upgrading Project (KENSUP). As with village water supply projects (ICE News last week) the Kianda schemes are managed by community-based organisations.

'In this organisation the women are running the business, ' notes chairman of the executive committee David Amayo. In a society where men work and women look after children at home, the tables are turning, he explains (see box).

The slum women are now educating their children to live more hygienically and are involved in day to day management of the water and sanitation projects.

'It was women who started the CBO (community based organisation) and then the men joined, ' says executive board member Hellen Kakamanda.

here are now 450 committee members who are paid 100 Kenyan Shillings (KSH), the equivalent of about a day's wages or 70p, to oversee cleaning and sanitation operations.

We have nine areas covering 70,000 adults and each area has a chairman, treasurer and secretary, ' says Amayo.

UNICEF donated water tanks, connected to Nairobi's water mains last year. There is one tank and caretaker for each of the nine areas in Kianda. Slum dwellers can pay 2KSH for 20 litres of water or 100KSH a month per household for unlimited supply.

lution blocks with segregated showers and toilets funded by ITDG arrived in Kianda in 2003. Users now pay 200KSH per family per month to use the block or 3KSH for one-off use. It attracts 250 visitors a day, says Amayo.

'But the biggest expense is pumping the effluent away which costs 1000KSH per trip - we often don't have the money for this, ' he admits. In another part of the village, human effluent is collected and allowed to ferment in a concrete pit.

The biogas produced is used to heat water for hot showers.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.