More than 60% of all African city dwellers live in slums… a reality for about 750 m. people and rising. As the climate crisis continues to drive people away from rural areas and into cities, urbanization has become a growing issue across the globe. People living in slums work hard, long days. They pay high rents for flimsy shacks on land owned by the government and effectively squatted on by landlords. They have no services, and the only taxation comes in the form of protection money demanded by gangs and bribery the police. Each day is a struggle to scrape together enough money, food and water to reach the next. Electricity, clean water, toilets, healthcare and schools are either non-existent or not available to residents. Crime is acutely high and mainly unreported. Rape and child sex abuse is endemic as drink and drugs are rife. Food is cheap but unhealthy – fizzy drinks are easier to get than clean water. Diabetes is rife from cheap, high-sugar food. The biggest killers are a bad diet, dirt and respiratory diseases breathing dust and smoke from burning charcoal, rubbish and plastic waste.
If it’s tough for the adults to live in these conditions for children it’s even harder.
Kids have to be kids. They have no place to play, no place to run, no place for dreams. Young people need spaces to create and be themself. Kids want to be poets, dancers, and sports players. But they cannot express their feelings. Life in a slum is reality harsh and grinding every day. Growing up as a disempowered young person makes it so easy to be very angry.
Built on a swamp area, Namuwongo is located in Makindye district 6 km far from the Kampala city centre. It is the second-largest slum in Uganda and it has about 40,000 residents, although some estimate that this figure can be as high as 80,000. While total population must consider unofficial figures -as unregistered refugees- the increase of structures is an indication of the rate of growth of the settlement: in 1993 there were just 451 structures, which increased over to 4,000 by the end of 2019. It is a labyrinth of “huts” of mud, wattle and unbaked bricks. Slum’s rapidly expanding settlement has spread across to the railroad. Most blocks are single rooms, these structures are sandwiched between the railway and the channel that takes Kampala’s sewerage to Lake Victoria. The channel torments the residents not just with the stench during the dry season but also with floods whenever it rains. Houses there are not planned and access is through a maze of footpaths between buildings less than a meter apart. Some of the paths also double as trenches and dumping areas. Unfortunately, they also have a third use as children’s play area. As an informal settlement, residents are always at risk of eviction and their homes demolished. The slum became a temporary base for people not sure if they would be able to spend the next night in there, even though most of them work in the city with regular jobs. Some Kampala’ slums numbers:
- People living in slums are about 1 M over a population of about 1.7 M.
- Youth unemployment rate is 80%.
- Only 1 in 4 children attend school.
- Life expectancy is 30 years.
- HIV infects 60% of the adult population.
- At any one time, 50% of slums’ 15 to 25-year-old women are pregnant.
- 1 toilet block serves about 50 shacks, with each shack housing roughly 8 people.