Public Health Concerns in Mukuru Slums

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

We all need access to primary healthcare. In urban poor settings, addressing healthcare disparities is one of the biggest challenges.

In a recent community dialogue organized by Siasa Place in Mukuru, residents of the slum expressed great displeasure with the current government’s inability to keep the promises made during campaigns, especially concerning the health sector.

“There are many health-related issues within the slum, and the most common diseases include malaria, typhoid, dysentery and tuberculosis. Malnutrition is visible among children. This is primarily related to the high cost of food concerning the low family income. Any medical facilities are beyond the reach of most of the residents,” says Maureen Juma, one of the youth advocates in Mukuru.

Reports indicate that Mukuru faces public health challenges, from unsafe physical infrastructure to inadequate service provision. Residents’ health and well-being are compromised daily by improper solid waste disposal, sewer outbursts, inadequate toilet facilities and industrial pollution.

Despite all these public health challenges and the dire need for good quality state-run health services, Mukuru has only three state-supported health facilities serving around 400,000 people.

“Because three health facilities are clearly inadequate, unregistered clinics and pharmacies thrive. These unregulated facilities threaten the lives and health of those they serve. Moreover, regulated private facilities are too expensive for the residents to access,” adds Juma.

There is an urgent need for Mukuru residents to access quality and affordable healthcare and to address the underlying challenges to good health.

In July 2022, just before the 2022 general elections, residents of Mukuru presented their manifesto to the Kenya Kwanza Coalition. It had the challenges and solutions the residents wanted to be delivered if the coalition’s Nairobi gubernatorial candidate, Johnson Sakaja, won the seat.

Some of the public health concerns raised by residents of Mukuru in the manifesto included water and sanitation issues.

According to the document, only one per cent of residents in three Mukuru slums have access to home toilets, with an average of 547 households sharing public toilets. Pit latrines are the most common type of toilet in the area, which residents say are poorly maintained.

The residents wanted the Kenya Kwanza government to commit to allocating funds to ensure the necessary trunk and lateral sewers are built, connecting homes to sewers.

“Access to water is considered as one of the top challenges faced by residents in Mukuru. We pay more money for poorer quality of water than other residents in Nairobi,” says Mary Mumo, a youth from Mukuru.

In the manifesto, the residents also wanted the next government to ensure resources are allocated for the construction of the necessary infrastructure to ensure homes are connected with water.

While these are good and possible solutions to the public health crisis in Mukuru, the residents are yet to see any developments addressed towards the concerns raised in the document.

“It has been over eight months since we elected new leaders. However, we feel that our concerns and needs have not been taken into consideration. We are hoping to see our request and ideas in the manifesto come to life” adds Mumo.

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