The Children's Stories

Challenges of the destitute child - Joy Waithera's story.

My mother would leave me unattended, with just some food and lock me in our small mud house thatched with iron sheeting. The smell in the slum is unimaginable which emanates from rotting garbage, human waste, industrial smoke and gas from the industrial area.

My name is Joy Waithera, and I was born in Kenya, Nairobi County in a slum called Mkuru Kwa Njenga on 17/09/1999. My early childhood is not very vivid to me, all that is known is that it was very terrible, with a lot of tribulation as I was a girl. My mother had no stable job; she worked as a casual labourer washing clothes for the rich in neighbourhood prime estates like pipeline.

My mother would leave me unattended, with just some food and lock me in our small mud house thatched with iron sheeting.

Mukuru Kwa Njenga is a slum situated on the eastern side of Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. It is adjacent to Kenya's main industrial area where 99% of all Kenya`s manufacturing processes take place. Because of this, Mukuru is the most populated and congested slum in Kenya. This is because it provides skilled and unskilled labour to the industries.

Mukuru has dingy houses built with mud and thatched with waste iron sheet or polythene. Most of the houses have standard measurements of 3m by 6m which can host up to 6 family members. There is no kitchen or toilet.

To deal with a of call of nature, one has to relieve oneself in a piece of polythene sheet and dump the waste in a trench, or the Nairobi river which passes through the slum, or even on a neighbour`s door step.

This kind of environment makes children's life dangerous since there is no playing ground, the children end up playing around the same ditch where human waste and other garbage has been dumped. The smell in the slum is unimaginable which emanates from rotting garbage, human waste, industrial smoke and gas from the industrial area.

These hazardous environments have a negative impact on the slum dwellers' health but no one has enough voice to air their predicaments to the national government.

Clean sufficient water is like a dream to Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum dwellers. Water is sold at the outskirts where a 20 litre bucket of water costs 100kshs which most of the family would use for 3 to 4 days for all their daily use.

Living in this notorious slum one would expect anything since it hosts all kind of people and crimes. These come as a result of the high level of poverty where the entire family live below 100 Kshs a day. Prostitution is rampant in the slum and the old, the young and children are involved. Children are commonly used to peddle drugs even in broad daylight for a small fee of 50 Kshs a day, since the majority of children do not have the opportunity to attend school due to lack of school fees.

The area is manned by organised armed criminal gangs, who invade houses at any time of the day or night and take away anything that can be valuable or even demand protection fee. These criminal gangs are feared even by the crime prevention unit and regular police. None of those units patrols in the area since the gangs are armed with more sophisticated weapons than the Kenyan police force.

If you are born in the Mukuru slum, it is a miracle to attain the age of 35 years.

Many cases of water borne and air borne disease kill most of the young children in these slum. I recall when I was young living there, I witnessed the deaths of three children who I used to play with; and no one had a clue what the cause of death was. Dugs are the second killer, and HIV related diseases like TB follow. Others are killed by thugs or fire.

It is a place where only people with no options in life can dwell. When I look back and visualise the kind of life I spent in that slum my only tribute and heartfelt thanks is to Miriam, Charles and UK family for rescuing me. I would have died an immature death a long time ago had I stayed.

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