By Charity Phoebe Kilei
Women who reside in Niarobi’s slum areas have always been met with many impediments. This is occasioned by the widespread catastrophe recently evident in the flooded homes; a terrifying reality for slum dwellers.
Despite the blessings that come along with rainfall, most slum residents recount heavy water floods as a grim reminder of their entrenched poverty and profound vulnerability.
In Kenya’s capital lies Kibra slum, one of Africa’s largest. The slum is largely inhabited by makeshift shacks constructed from weathered iron sheets and mud structures.
This has over time offered minimal protection, especially on the onset of rain.
The lower cost of living in the aforesaid slum has attracted numerous vulnerable individuals, predominantly women, seeking refuge.
As of the 2019 census, the slum had a population of around 200,000.
Mary Atieno, aged 18, a single mother residing in Kambi Muru within Kibra, recounts her harrowing experiences.
“Living in the slum is a painful ordeal. Heavy rains cause our house to flood, and our already weakened walls collapse due to leaking roofs,” she said while adding that they are forced to relocate during rainy seasons.
According to Atieno, various contagious diseases come with it.
“On the onset of rain, when the wall collapsed during floods, it subjects us to a cold night making us highly susceptible to pneumonia,” she added.
The challenges intensify for mothers like Millicent Adongo, a river and sewerage bank resider, who until the time this was published, was still struggling to cope with flooded floors and her crumbling house.
“Staying on the river banks is quite challenging, especially during heavy rainfall. I once woke up to water floods and collapsed walls. My children were completely soaked because they were lying on the floor,” Adongo desperately shared while noting that this endangered their lives.
These weak walls not only expose them to diseases but also make them vulnerable to attacks by criminals preying on area residents.
Despite suggestions to relocate, Adongo says lack of means and alternative places forces them to endure, clinging to hope for a better situation.
Earlier this year, residents of Waruku in Kangemi experienced sudden and devastating floods during a heavy downpour.
Ashley Nyaboke, a grade six pupil, was swept away by waterfloods that inundated their home rendering over 100 households homeless and languishing in poverty.
Efforts to rescue her proved futile, and despite multiple attempts, she could not be located.
The ongoing El Niño rains have exacerbated the plight of slum dwellers especially the most marginalized as women and children.
Climate change, a global issue, hits harder for these marginalized groups, from severe droughts to flooding and resource scarcity.
Kenya has felt the harsh impacts of climate change, resulting in fatalities and displacements.
Forecasts by both IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre and Kenya Met predict heavy rains resembling those of El Niño in 1997 and 2006 from September 2023 to January 2024.
At the time, the El Niño phenomenon had already claimed 120 lives and forced nearly 90,000 households to abandon their homes in Kenya.
Despite uncertainties surrounding these predictions, organizations like the Young Women’s Christian Association are actively educating and empowering minority groups like women and youth to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Speaking during a virtual webinar on Tuesday, Purity Jebor, an activist, emphasized the need for inclusive participation in decision-making and climate change initiatives.
The webinar dubbed “Climate Change and Social Inequalities” was organized by YWCA in partnership with Hivos and Africa Youth Initiative in Climate Change through the Voices for Intercounty Just Climate Action Plans.
Purity alluded that holding leaders accountable is crucial owing to the previous impacts that some decisions have resulted in, especially on the youths.
She also added that youths’ active involvement is vital in preventing burdensome loans and unwise decisions in climate change action adaptation and mitigation.