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the largest slum in africa

By Dan Budgell

I find myself in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, located in the outskirts of Nairobi. Although I don’t have any projects here, I had to visit it to see it with my own eyes. I seek these places partially because of the desire to explore every corner of the world, but more so because it gives me hope and strength to carry on through my life.

As I walk around I gather the sharp stares of the street dwellers. Nobody here has a plan for tomorrow. The stories they tell are beyond imagination. One local tells me "A child was eaten alive here by a pack of stray dogs, hahaha! Poor kid!” Personally I wouldn’t want to live here even as a stray dog. There is no sewer system, let alone any health or education system. The place reeks of feces and decaying matter. The smell is so strong I can almost taste it. Plastic bags full of human waste are littered, a dead crow covered in maggots on the side. Yet, it is home to many.

The magnitude of suffering I could sense was daunting. The imagery is so contradictory to the promising blue skies and great fields with grazing giraffes I saw just minutes ago. I could spend the rest of my life trying to help these people and I’m not sure if it would make a damn difference.

I have no clue where to begin. For the first time I felt like giving up before starting. Kibera is not only the largest slum - with an estimated population of 750,000-1,000,000 - but also has one of the highest population densities in the world making it ideal for disease transmission. There is not a single government school or teacher here. The residents of Kibera experience the lowest living conditions in the world. A lesser known fact is that 1/3 of the urban population in the world are street dwellers. The population of Kibera is expected to double by the year 2020. In correlation with the ever-increasing population, more diseases, starvation, and suffering is expected.

the solution

Whenever I come to places like this I wonder why it’s not the world's number one priority. These places make me feel guilty of living a luxurious life back home. It’s the source of my insomnia, and is a great burden - but a burden worth carrying. I hope to come back here one day with more knowledge and experience to help these people.

I must have spent thousands of hours thinking of solutions to poverty. Although in an ideal world, governments would be taking more drastic interventions, I don’t have much faith in them right now. Governments have promised to fight poverty since the word “poverty” was invented. Yet most countries have ODAs (Official Development Assistance) lingering below 0.7% of the GDP. Non governmental organizations are great, but they are always fighting to secure funds and have trouble acting at their full potential. I’m a strong believer in the potential of the individual. What we need are more Ghandis and mother Teresas. To make more positively influential people, inspired people have to inspire more people. The human race can’t leave the suffering people behind, yet most people are concerned with their own well being. I’m guilty of this too, but who is to blame?

Our life really does feel like a race sometimes. Yet deep inside everyone knows that the world can’t continue on like this. Poverty, war, global warming and all the other problems we face are bound to effect us in the near future. We are still evolving as humans, and in the process of evolution must find ways to collectively overcome these problems. If every individual picked one problem and spend some time improving it so much could happen. Many people have great ideas and talk the talk, but rarely put it in to action.

By Dan Budgell
Dan Budgell is a Footstops sponsored traveller. Currently in Africa, Dan’s spouting humanitarianism, social justice and racking his brain for solutions to our world’s simple, yet apparently insurmountable problems.

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