News24

Kenya's slum women risk health

2010-07-07 12:34

Nairobi - Kenya's poorest women risk the deadly diseases related to poor sanitation because "endemic" sexual violence in the capital's sprawling slums keeps them away from its communal toilets, a rights group said on Wednesday.

About 60% of Nairobi residents, or some 2 million people, live in shantytowns with limited access to water, sanitation and other vital services. Sewage runs though ditches and pathways are littered with garbage and human waste.

"Women and girls in Nairobi's slums live under the constant threat of sexual violence," Amnesty International said in a statement attached to its new report on Kenyan women in slums.

"Unable to leave their one-roomed houses after dark, many women in informal settlements resort to 'flying toilets' - using plastic bags thrown from the home to dispose of waste."

Amnesty International said these women were at high risk of communicable diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

The group criticised the slum's lack of police and the government's failure to enforce planning laws and regulations in the settlements.

"There is a huge gap between what the government commits to do, and what is going on in the slums everyday," said Godfrey Odongo, Amnesty International's east Africa researcher.

Kenya is east Africa's largest economy and the population of its capital is seen doubling to nearly six million by 2025.

This is seen heaping pressure on the city's slums. Already, Nairobi's slum-dwellers live on just 5% of the city's residential area.

During the violent crisis that engulfed Kenya following its disputed 2007 election, the shantytowns with their huge numbers of marginalised youths became notorious ethnic battlegrounds.

Aid workers say they are "ticking time bombs" ahead of the country's next poll in 2012.