Posted on July 19, 2004

Squalor Everywhere, But Still This Is A Neighborhood


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


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.

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