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Mathare Slum

Mathare Valley Slum

The Mathare slum zigzags through Mathare Valley in Nairobi, Kenya for seven kilometres. Over 500,000 people call this small strip of land home. The residents of the Mathare slum are among the poorest, most destitute people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the population, including children, have been affected by AIDS and/or HIV, Malaria, and Tuberculosis among others.

Many, many children live here alone, with no parents or have just one parent. AIDS & so many other diseases in this community has & is taking its toll

Those with no parents are often handed over to a “Trustee”, an individual who has agreed to “keep an eye” on the child.

Four year old children take care of 2 year old children.

The few medical clinics that are there, are not free, and the people here who desperately need help cannot pay.  A community nurse is sent into the slum when there is a infectious outbreak but just one nurse & not on a regular basis.

There are no community centre, no library or sports groups

In Mathare.  There is no refuge or “safe place” in which children can safely spend their after school & weekend time.



There are no roads inside the slum, forcing everyone to walk in narrow pathways filled with sewage. The tin shacks have open sewers outside the door.

Many organizations that might go into this slum to help are not equipped to face the violence and illness that plagues this slum.

It is home to organized “for hire’ thugs, The gangs are made up  of disenfranchised youth who have no hope of legitimate jobs, have never been educated, and  the only “work” they find along with a sense of belonging to something is within these gangs .

Mathare is the home base for this gang, which makes this particular slum very vulnerable for NGO’s to enter into, which explains why so few of them work there.

PCA has worked in Mathare for 14 years.  PCA is well known  & recognized within the community & is respected for the work it continues to do there.

One of the differences that PCA had made is:  members  of the “gangs” send their children to school, something they did not do in the past.  Whether or not it is a result of this is difficult to assess, however, they seem to protect the school from other predators common to primary school in Math are.



housing in mathare slum


The land in the slum is owned by the government, but private landlords own and rent out individual houses. There is no rent control, which means that a landlord can charge whatever rent he/she chooses. Further, the landlord is under no obligation to provide any services or maintenance for these rental houses. The houses are one-room tin shacks, most without windows, electricity or running water. Food is prepared on charcoal burners outside where open sewers filled with raw sewage divide the pathways. Piles of garbage scattered throughout the slum are a source of food for goats and chickens.
The unemployment rate is reported to be over 90%. Residents often leave one woman (usually a pregnant woman) in charge of the children during the day, while they walk into Nairobi looking for any way to earn a wage.During the day the slum is empty except for very young children (and their caregivers), the elderly, and the ill. If work is found, the charcoal burner will be lit in the evening and the family will eat. If there is no work, the family will go without food.




mathare slum

Living Conditions

It is not uncommon for a landlord to evict existing tenants by burning down the shack in which they live. The shack is then reconstructed and rented to a new tenant at a higher rent.

The government employs many ‘slum lords’ who are given small areas in the slum to supervise. The role of the ‘slum lord’ is to mediate problems that arise between tenants and landlords within the slum. Yet corruption (bribes) and violence are often used to solve problems – therefore residents very seldom benefit from this ‘mediation’.