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Hard life in Kenya slums hits hard the elderly

29 June 2015, 21:38

Nairobi - The elderly woman labored as she walked, her hand holding firmly on her walking stick as she made calculated steps eager to reach a seat a few meters away.

About four minutes later, without help that she had turned down, she reached the seat near her house in Mukuru slum, Nairobi, sat and put her hand on her waist and murmured of how it was aching.

Jane Wangare is among the many elderly women living in the slum and several others in Nairobi, which include Korogocho, Kibera, Mathare, Kawangware, Kibera and Kiambiu.

They make a sizeable number of people in the informal settlements. However, while some of the elderly persons stay with their children or grandchildren, majority are on their own.

Also read: Nairobi residents set to go without water

The hard slum life in the Kenyan slums has taken a toll on the senior citizens. Just as other residents, the elderly persons, particularly those who stay alone, have to struggle to make ends meet.

They have to look for food, clothing, water and health services, things that are not easy to come by. They also have to contend with increased crime, some which is targeted at them.

"If it was my wish I would relocate from this slum because life is very difficult but where do I go? This is the place I call home. I have nowhere else to go," said Wangare on Saturday.

The 75-year-old, who has lived most of her life in the slum, said she is among those who started the settlement.

"When I moved here, I was then working at a factory in Industrial Area. Then we were not many of us and life was a little better but over time, the slum has expanded as the population increases making life difficult," she said.

The slum hosts over 150,000 people, with shanties standing on every space leaving little room for access roads.

"Those narrow roads need people who do not walk with sticks. For me it is a tough jobwalking out of my house to the shop or even to sit outside. The filth is also too much," said Wangare, who lives at the mercy of well-wishers.

Her failing health, which has been worsened by high blood pressure and diabetes, compounds her problems.

Seventy-eight-year-old Frida Mukami, who lives alone in Lunga Lunga, a neighboring slum, share a similar predicament.

"You want to work for food but you have no energy. Initially, people would assist us but life is getting tougher that there is no excess food to share. People also do not have time to spare to take care of us," she said.

The septuagenarian, like Wangare, suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, diseases she was diagnosed with four years ago.

"These diseases demand that I have to eat well but where is the money? I used to sell groceries for living but now I cannot engage in the business anymore because of old age," said Mukami, who lives with her two grandsons that attend a nearby primary school.

Social worker Salome Wanjiku, who works in various slums that include Mukuru and Korogocho, noted that slum life is a torture to the elderly.

"Over the years the number of elderly people living in slums in Nairobi has increased but the life in the informal settlements has deteriorated a great deal making it difficult for them," she said.

A good number of the elderly living in the slums are woman. "There are not as many men as women, and this is because the men tend to return to the ancestral homes, but for women it is difficult because some of them were married and separated with their husbands many years ago," she said.

She further blamed the plight of the senior citizens on their children, some who have abandoned them.

"But not all is gloom. We are working with the government's social services department through which majority of elderly persons get 15.3 U.S. dollars stipend a month. They use the money for food and there are organizations that are assist them manage their ailing health," she said.

- Xinhua

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