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Kenya : Portrait of a Situation

A few kilometers south of Nairobi, Kenya's capital, is Kibera, one of Africa's largest slum. Quebec missionaries depict the situation.

Two priests of the Foreign Mission Society, Fathers Bernard Duquette and Roland Laneuville, work in the area of Nairobi, capital of Kenya, in collaboration with four seminarians and one lay missionary associate, Claude de La Chevrotière. They agreed to answer together our questions about their work and the situation of homelessness in that region.

 

1.    What kind of work do you do in Kibera?

Our work is quite diverse. We work mainly with people.

On the educational front, we work with a group of young people who have done drugs and were sexually abused. We also provide religious education in an elementary school.

In the field of health care, we conduct home visits to the sick and we ensure the maintenance of a home for people with intellectual disability.

On a spiritual level, we organize prayer sessions in the evening with families, and of course we give the sacraments, such as the Eucharist and baptism.

 

2.    Do you see homelessness in the streets of Nairobi and Kibera? If so, what are its causes?

There is homelessness, indeed, among both teenagers and adults, in the slums as in the capital. However, the homeless in Nairobi are pushed out of the city by the authorities.

Kenya has many orphans: at least 1.5 million children who have lost either one parent or both. Often, they will stay with other family members. Some are sexually abused or used for begging, so they leave that home to go live on the streets.

Homeless adults are often people with an intellectual disability or mental illness.

The causes of homelessness are many: poverty, mental illness, lack of work, alcoholism. People with AIDS who are rejected, and abused children also often end up in the street.

 

3.    Are there programs to support these people?

There are no governmental programs. Whatever support there is comes from religious communities or non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

 

4.    How are these people viewed by Kenyans in general?

It's like in Canada. Some have sympathy and will help with the purchase of food or will make donations. Others ignore them.

 

5.    Does the government improve the Kibera slum? On the contrary, is the population rather left to itself?

The government does not take care of Kibera, no more than any of the hundred or so other slums around Nairobi.

 

Interesting Links

The Foreign Mission Society’s website
www.smelaval.org

For political reasons, Kibera was inexistent on any map of Nairobi. The Map Kibera Project was created to solve this problem.
http://www.irinnews.org/Report/91545/KENYA-Mapping-Kibera-to-improve-living-conditions

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