Often the perception of third world poverty is depicted as that of World Vision commercials, with children outside of mud huts (which is a part of it, but not the whole picture). A large majority of low income people live in urban slums on the outskirts of the large cities. The rapid urbanization of large cities in developing countries has created a shift from rural poverty to urban poverty. Tin huts, consisting of dirt floors and often measuring 2 x 4 meters, serve as a kitchen, bedroom, and sitting area. Bathrooms are often communal, unsanitary and used by several community members. Sewage systems consist of dug out trenches in and behind settlements, and plastic bags of human excrement. There is no garbage disposal in the slum areas, thus trash accumulates on the side of the streets, creating unbearable smells.
Supper would be cooked with a charcoal fire in the streets with water retrieved from stand pipes (often not properly treated). Water can often contain cholera, giardia and E.coli, among other harmful bacteria and parasites. Food from street vendors are often unsafe to eat and along with the consumption of the poorly treated water can lead to server food borne illness furthering dehydration and malnutrition.
Often mothers leave their children with older peers or siblings while they work or beg on the busy streets of Nairobi. The sex trade is also a growing industry and provider of income for women in the slums. Due to lack of income, children are often abandoned and take to the streets of Nairobi where they turn to sniffing glue to subdue the emotional pain they have encountered.
The slum I will be working at is called Mukuru, which has about 700,000 residents currently living there. It began as an industrial area and dumping site (the English translation of Mukuru is “dumping site”). As people moved from rural areas to seek employment in the large city, many found themselves without ability to afford proper housing which lead to occupation of this dumping area. Cana Family Clinic, where I will be conducting my research, along with a great friend and colleague Christine Kariuki, is located in this slum area. Today was the first day I was back at the Clinic after two years! I was first connected with this clinic 5 years ago, when Lakeshore Church traveled to Kenya on a mission. I remember being so touched by the genuine passion and love Mary Mambo (the director of the clinic) had for the people of Mukuru. Mary along with family and other amazing workers run an orphanage, school and church trying to bring light amidst the darkness of the slum situation. For our research we will be conducting a dietary assessment of young pregnant women in the slum and an environmental scan of the area. Hopefully this data will provide an evidence base to support the creation of a health promoting yogurt kitchen in the area. I am very excited to spend more time at the clinic and learn of more amazing stories of how God has worked in the lives of Mukuru residents!