Health one of the biggest headaches for slum dwellers
Posted Tuesday, April 6 2010 at 21:00
- One woman’s tough life in Kibera typifies what thousands of poor people undergo
Bringing up six grandchildren in the mire of city life in her golden years on a Sh200 income has been a gruesome task for the 60-year-old grandmother.
Mrs Fanice Musimbi Ngatia points out malaria bouts are a common occurrence in the family of seven that lives in Kibera slums.
Inadequate shelter, unemployment, crime, unavailability of clean water, inadequate drainage and sanitation are some of the urban challenges facing the country as the world observes World Health Day on Wednesday.
And as the day is celebrated, Mrs Ngatia called for a keener approach to address health hazards in the environment, especially for slum residents.
“We use polythene bags as toilets and later throw them behind the house,” Mrs Ngatia said in an interview at her Kibera home on Tuesday.
If only we had toilets and clean water, we would be healthier, Mrs Ngatia said adding the children defecated in the open trenches outside their doorsteps due to lack of toilets.
Of her ten children, two daughters passed away while a son has refused to return home due to the harsh economic times in the city, leaving her with five grandchildren to fend for, all aged between three and nine years old.
Her husband is in Western Kenya fending for another set of grandchildren.
Experts on Tuesday called for a multi-sectoral approach to deal with health challenges in the urban areas.
The day marks the founding of the global body, World Health Organisation. Key global health issues are selected and highlighted on this day. This year’s focus is on urbanisation and health.
Access to emergency health facilities remains a challenge to people living in informal settlements, a fact Mrs Ngatia affirms.
Recently, she and her neighbours rushed 22-year-old neighbour Olivia Khavea, who is three months pregnant, to a nearby clinic but they could not afford a full medical checkup.
“I am still experiencing pains and vomiting but I do not have money to go to the hospital,” Ms Khavea said.
A 2005 WHO report says children are especially vulnerable due to exposure to air pollution especially in the cities.
The thirst for urban settlement has increased tremendously in the last five years, a fact that WHO country representative David Okello describes as a crisis if solutions are not found soon.
“Disease outbreaks like cholera have been reported in urban areas, especially in the slum areas where hygiene levels have been compromised,” Dr Okello told participants at a conference organised by the African Population and Research Centre in Nairobi on Tuesday.
“Running stomachs and vomiting are a common occurrence in my house but we have learnt to boil water,” Mrs Ngatia said. However, a 20 litre jerrican of water costs Sh3 yet I need to wash, cook and bathe the children, Mrs Ngatia who does her laundry in a nearby estate said.