Thousands homeless as raging fire sweeps through Kenyan slum Special
Fire has swept through a huge section of shanty homes and makeshift slums in Kenya's Naivasha township on Monday. Thousands have been left homeless in a community already blighted by poverty and hunger.
It has been estimated that as much as 85 percent of the main section of homes is now reduced to ashes. Although there have been no casualties reported, a community lies in ruins, families will be displaced and the charities who empower the children to a point of self reliance could be displaced to areas where no help is available.
The fire started around 5pm local time, a time of day when the baking African sun creates those tinderbox dry conditions. It began in a small shack and spread to the roof, shooting up an electricity pole at such an alarming rate slum dwellers had to literally flee for their lives and run from the flames to safety.
Marcus Gregar-Rive works for a children's charity, KCC Slum Project within the shanty town and he told Digital Journal via Skype, "things have calmed down a bit but overall its hard to know the future of this place. But people are hungry and so food is one of the major challenges."
The KCC Project
is a registered non-government organisation in Kenya under the name of Kitendo Children’s Charity (KCC) Slum Project. Located in Naivasha, Kenya, they have been assisting children and gradually reaching women and youth with specific empowerment initiatives, all with minimal aid from relief or development funding.
On Wednesday, two days after the fire the situation is slowly showing small steps of recovery. Marcus and his team managed to feed hundreds of people with ugali, an East African dish of maize flour (cornmeal) cooked with water to a porridge.
Today we fed 427 people in the slums with hot porridge and multi-vitamins. Then in the afternoon we cooked ugali, cabbage, toms and onions meal at the school. We invited children from the slums to come after school where we fed them this meal, as well as a continuation of therapeutic talks from the events that have been happening. Along with this we gave each child 3 exercise books, pencil and pen so they can get back to school. This is especially important to get children back into their routine so they are out of the slums and in school. We have a fantastic team that have worked tirelessly over the past few days, despite some of them losing their own homes.
Much of the burnt out area has started to be cleared on Wednesday with stacks of corrugated iron (used for walls and roofs in the slum), charcoal, timbers all being stacked and cleared. The landlords that rent out the shacks to the community have begun the rebuilding process already but the project believes it could take up to four months to restore the slum to its former number of dwellings.
A small number of injuries were reported following the blaze. I asked Marcus how those affected were getting along: "There have only been minor injuries and we are running a two-day medical camp this Friday and Saturday with the local hospital. The best communication point is probably on the [project's] blog."
For most of the people in the slum this was what they called home, where they worked, lived with their families and spent leisure time too. When I asked how morale in the slum is holding up, the project manager said:
Both communal and at times hostile too. It's a bit of both, actually right now there is pressure from the land owners, Kenya Railways for the people to leave for good. But it's a bit of both and in Kenya things can become complicated. People, like anywhere like this, feel they have a right to stay, but the problem being this slum is disorganized in the sense that the number is very high, up to 6000 people, within a small area.
All available funding from the project is currently being focused on feeding and trying to get some sense of normality back in the slum. Usually monies would feed and educate children, invest into sustainable solutions, sponsor children into primary school,enable health initiatives and support the running costs of the project.
Donations to the project can be made here
. Meanwhile for the hundreds of slum dwellers in the Naivasha camp who have lost all their food, photos, documents, cash, medical documentation, school uniforms & books, shoes, furniture and personal items they are just grateful they have not lost the one most important thing of all - their life