Thirsty Cities: Nairobi's Fast Growing Slums Still Lack the Basics


Child disease and morality rates in Nairobi's slums are estimated to be double that of children living in normal conditions in the rest of the city. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.


Nobody knows exactly how many people live in Kibera, the 2.5 square kilometer slum in Nairobi. Estimates range from 170,000 to more than a million. What is for sure is that most people lack even the most basic water, sanitation, and health services. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.


A community toilet in the Nairobi slum of Korogocho. Keeping toilets clean is a constant struggle. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.


Nairobi's slum living conditions are cramped and dirty, even in this housing block, which recently installed a toilet. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.


A water distribution kiosk set up by the Water Services Trust Fund, a quasi-government agency, which has built more than 300 such units in Nairobi's slums. Transporting water remains largely women's work. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.


A school for girls, "Shining Hope for Communities," provides education, water, medical care, and nutrition for dozens of girls in the giant Nairobi slum of Kibera. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.


Water remains a precious commodity in Nairobi's slums, where most residents pay exorbitant amounts of money for water. This water distribution point at the Shining Hope for Communities school offers local residents clean water at inexpensive prices. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.


A Danish social entrepreneur start-up has launched the "Ruby Cup," a re-usable menstrual cup that is being marketed as a sustainable solution in Nairobi's slums. PIctured here are co-founder Maxie Matthiessen and some of the girls who are using the product. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.


A toilet facility in Mavoko, a community on the outskirts of Nairobi. While new facilities like this are on the rise, many people still resort to so called "flying toilets"—where they dispose of their waste in a plastic bag, which they then toss. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.


Corruption remains a major impediment to development in poverty-blighted Kenya. Image by Sam Loewenberg, Kenya, 2012.

As Kenya's urban slums expand at rapid rates, they face increasing challenges in food security, health services, water, and sanitation. Nairobi’s slums are desperately crowded: they occupy less than 6 percent of Nairobi’s residential land, yet are home to 60 percent of the city’s population, according to the African Population and Health Research Center in Nairobi. The slum areas are not formally recognized by the government and thus lack basic services such as water, sanitation, and health services. The result is that children in the slums have “higher mortality and morbidity rates than children in other parts of Kenya,” according to the Center. At the same time, the slums have also become a site for a plethora of public health initiatives by NGOs and international agencies. But providing even the basics remains a challenge.