What do you think of when you hear about slums?

When you think about slums, do you think about poverty, waste, and poor education?

When I was in slums in India and Kenya the first time, I realized that it is much more than what I thought. Yes, there are many poor people, a big issue with waste and hygiene, and many other critical issues. But there is also a whole microcosmos, a system, hierarchies. People who engage a lot and are full of hope to change and others who are frustrated. Many small shops, the entire area reserved for certain communities. What seems to be a mess has a precise structure behind it.
And there are threads I had never thought of—one of the biggest threads – floods and Fire in the slums.
People who live in slums have not a lot of space. The single barracks often consist just out of a small single room, separated from the next just by a piece of iron wall – in the best case. Often the ways to the own home are very straight; the barracks touch each other.
When a fire breaks out, it means a disaster for many. It is difficult to isolate the place where the Fire has started; even more difficult is bringing enough water or sand there to extinguish the Fire.

In Mukuru Slums, Nairobi, where we run some projects together with the Mukuru Angaza Academia and young children and adolescents, it happened again a few days back. First, a big fire that has destroyed many barracks and the few belongings the families living there had, then a few days later, the floods.
“Fire affected many people; luckily, I was spared. But then we had the floods again. And this has not spared me. I have lost my laptop, destroyed among other work materials”, explains our local NGO partner who lives in Mukuru slums.

Just watch yourself how threading is fire in the slums – video.