Nairobi, Kenya

Kibera (which is derived from a Nubian word, kibra, meaning forest) – is a home to as many as a million residents as Kibera is the world’s second-largest informal settlement, after Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa. Although it covers 2.5 sq km in area, it’s home to somewhere between a quarter and a third of Nairobi’s population, and has a density of an estimated 300,000 people per square kilometer. With the area heavily polluted by open sewers, and lacking even the most basic infrastructure, residents of Kibera suffer from disease, poor nutrition and other basic needs. Although it’s virtually impossible to collect accurate statistics on shanty towns, as the demographics change almost daily, the rough estimates for Kibera are shocking.

According to local aid workers, Kibera has one pit toilet for every 100 people; some of the residents suffer from HIV while eighty percent of people living here are unemployed.

Kibera is located southwest of central Nairobi. The railway line heading to Kisumu intersects Kibera, even though Kibera doesn’t actually have a station. The railway line does serve as the main thoroughfare through Kibera where you will find shops selling basic provisions along the tracks.

kibera slum

How did we get here

The British established Kibera in 1918 for Nubian soldiers as a reward for service in WWI. However, following Kenyan independence in 1963, housing in Kibera was rendered illegal by the government. But this new legislation inadvertently allowed the Nubians to rent out their property to a greater number of tenants than legally permitted and, for poorer tenants, Kibera was perceived as affordable despite the questionable legalities.

Most of Kibera residents live in extreme poverty, earning less than a usd-dollar per day. Unemployment rates are high and persons living with HIV are many as AIDS cases has raised. There are few schools and most people cannot afford education for their children. Clean water is scarce. Diseases caused by poor hygiene are prevalent. A vast majority of citizens lack access to basic services, including electricity, running water and medical care. The neighborhoods are divided into a number of villages.

Through it all. Kibera residents are some of the most loving and resilient people one could ever meet. No, they do not have all the things they need but what they do is unconditional love for each other and that can never be replaced or replicated.