Tackling the Crisis of Urban Poverty in Kenya
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
NAIROBI, 19 January 2010 (IRIN) – Fridah Awour Agolla has sold vegetables in Nairobi’s Mathare slum for 20 years. In better times, her stock sold out every day. But lately market forces have begun to bite even harder for the millions in Kenya who live in such squalid, neglected settlements.
“My customers are buying less and less; now I find that goods like vegetables do not sell out, they go into the next day. People’s ability to buy these goods has really dropped,” Agolla, a mother of five, told IRIN.
Agolla managed to put her children through primary school but never earned enough to pay for secondary education.
“If I could afford to join a savings club [where members’ regular contributions are distributed on a rotational basis], I’d buy a variety of food to improve my stock and I would probably be selling more, and perhaps some of my children could go back to school,” she said.
Pamela Anyango Odhiambo, 25, and a mother of five, says making ends meet gets harder and harder in Mathare.
“I think food prices have more than doubled within a short time; for example, with 300 shillings [US$4] I could feed my family for days. Now it is not even enough for one day,” said Odhiambo, nursing two-month-old twins.
Slum-dwellers are among the Kenyans worst hit by high food prices, yet they receive far less humanitarian attention than other demographic groups. The poorest urbanites spend up to two-thirds of their income on staple foods alone.
“There is a humanitarian crisis in deprived informal settlements around the world, and one of the regions where this dynamic is playing out is in Kenya,” said Choice Okoro, advocacy and outreach officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs-Kenya.
“Urban poverty is set to be Kenya’s defining crisis over the next decade if it is not urgently addressed,” she added.