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08 September 2014

City slum women petition government on sanitation

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By Sally Emali and Shadrack Mbaka

Wednesday 21st August 2014 marked a new dawn for women and girls from Nairobi’s informal settlements. 250 women held a peaceful procession on the busy Ngong Road Highway en route to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and also the Ministry of Health. It was clear that the mission was to serve the Government of the Republic of Kenya to constitute a public inquiry on the inadequate sanitation, infrastructure and poor public health practices that exists in informal settlements.


According to UN HABITAT, developing countries have garnered adequate courage to address the plight of citizens in informal settlements. Kenya has done little to improve the living standards for slum dwellers in spite of organized communal data and information provided by the members of the fourth estate. The result of this neglect by the Government has been fatal. Women living in informal settlement have had to be contented by inadequate sanitation facilities and have had to resort to the use of plastic containers popularly known as Kasukus to answer to the call of nature.

Lack of toilets has led to the risk factor for girls and women to suffer from infections such as Malaria and acute lower respiratory infections. On a larger scale poor sanitation directly affects the economy due to productivity losses as people spend a lot of time in seeking access to better health care which is almost none existent in informal settlements. Women of the informal settlements are forced to exist without access to clean, safe and private sanitation facilities, as a result this poists the challenge of post natal care to thousands of women who require bathing facilities and sufficient water as they are prone to infections.

Sec 116 and 117 of the Public Health Act places the duty on the County Government as well as the National Government to take practicable measures for maintenance of clean and sanitary conditions as a strategy of preventing any nuisance or condition likely to be injurious to health. On the other hand the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development have the mandate to cater for better planning and development which compounds the need to provide better housing, storm water management , water and sanitation services.

It is for these reasons that organized communities from the auspices Muungano Wa Wanavijiji that the women are petitioning Government to jointly find solutions to the plight of urban poor. While receiving this petition the Cabinet Secretary for Land, Housing and Urban Development Hon Charity Ngilu said, “Government acknowledges that businesses are run in the informal settlements therefore it is unfair for slum dwellers to leave in constant fear of eviction. My Ministry has plans to profile informal settlements that would provide the base line for the ministry to offer low cost housing solutions to the urban poor. This is prioritized in our constitution”. These statements were received in jubilation by the women present, chanting, “hatutaki kususu kwa kasuku” meaning we no longer want to answer to the call of nature in plastic containers. A joint working group between Muungano Wa Wanavijiji and the Ministry of Lands was formed to agree on a way forward.

The procession latter moved to Ministry of Health for a courtesy call on the Cabinet Secretary James Macharia. On behalf of the CS the Director of Medical Services received the petition. The petition seeks to establish an inquiry on the standards of sanitation in Mukuru informal settlements.

Under the Public Health Act (Section 11 and 12) which gives the cabinet secretary the authority to order for an inquiry on matters health.” Together we will continue to enhance environmental health and this is why I encourage Muungano to also meet up with the Nairobi Governor , the MCAs to enhance overall good will of this great initiative of our fellow Citizens living in the slums,” said Dr Muraguri.

Muungano intends to hold further discussions with Government to ensure the plight of the urban poor on matters secure tenure,housing, water and sanitation is realized.



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Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) is a housing development & finance agency by the Slum Dwellers Federation of Kenya - Muungano wa Wanavijiji (MWW), an affiliate of Slum Dwellers International (SDI). It operates in all Counties of Kenya. More...


Muungano House, Ngong Rd (opp. Nairobi Baptist Church)
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Nairobi, Kenya.

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