The Kenyan constitution states that every person has the right to adequate housing, clean and safe water, and reasonable standards of sanitation. However, in reality, around 60 per cent of the population of the Kenyan capital Nairobi live in degrading and precarious conditions in slums. Mukuru is one of the largest of the more than 150 slums in Nairobi. The shacks in which the residents live are constructed mostly from corrugated iron, on average 234 families share one water tap, and there is one latrine for an average of 547 households. Sewerage systems and waste disposal do not exist. Waste water is disposed of in open drains or directly in the nearest stream. Waste mountains end up as coating on the alleys that lead through the slums. Most schools in Mukuru are of poor quality, health provision is inadequate, and in most cases, electricity can only be accessed via illegal connections, which poses a great risk of fire and electric shocks. The people in Mukuru live in densely packed spaces, pay above average for services such as rents, water, toilets and schools, and moreover face the constant threat of displacement.
These precarious living conditions have a detrimental effect on food security, health, schooling, legal security as well as access to the formal labour market for the residents of Mukuru, which severely limits their opportunities for development.
Mukuru slum consists of several settlements: Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Mukuru Kwa Reuben and Viwandani. It is located immediately adjacent to the capital’s industrial zone, around seven kilometres south-east of the centre. The oldest one of the settlements was established as early as in1958. Thanks to the growing rural exodus and accelerating population growth, Mukuru grew quickly from the 1980s onward. Today, some 300,000 people live in Mukuru slum. It is estimated that, due to population growth, the population will double by the year 2030. This would mean that 260,000 people would live on one square kilometre. The population density of the city of Geneva, which in 2011 had the highest population density in Switzerland with 11,768 inhabitants per square metre, is 22 times smaller.