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Squalor Everywhere, But Still This Is A Neighborhood

AR Articles on Africa
The Agony of Africa (Dec. 2003)
Why is Africa Poor? (Jan. 1992)
Light on the Dark Continent (Oct. 1992)
More news stories on Africa

Davan Maharaj, L. A. Times, Jul. 16

NAIROBI, Kenya—Plastic bags, knotted and sagging, soar across the slum late at night.

They bounce off tin roofs, splatter against mud walls patched with tin cans and tumble down the steep hillside, where they sprout every few feet like plastic weeds. In the morning, they are trampled into the ground.

After 33 years in this shantytown known as Deep Sea, Cecilia Wahu barely notices the bags anymore. They are called “flying toilets,” and because no one here has a bathroom, everyone has thrown a few.

“My dream, before I die, is to live in a permanent house, not a shack,” says Wahu, 66, who has rheumy eyes and is missing teeth. “It could be small, but it must have a nice kitchen, a real bed and its own toilet.”

That is her dream. Her reality is an 8-by-8-foot mud hut.

Survival in Deep Sea is a matter of staying above an endless tide of mud and waste. All that separates Wahu from the filth is a dirt floor, thin plank doors and a stubborn sense that even this place is a neighborhood.

About 1,500 people are crammed into this treacherously steep four-acre warren. They live on less than a dollar a day, and this is the best shelter they can afford.

There is one water faucet, one toilet and no electricity. The homes are jumbles of tin, red-baked mud and sticks that barely keep from tumbling into the fetid Gitathuru River below.

Tropical rains eat away at the walls. Roving bands of thugs threaten to break down homes unless they are paid protection money. Wealthy neighbors across the river lobby the government to clear the hillside.

Read the rest of this story here.

Original article

(Posted on July 19, 2004)

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