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AIR Pollution In Slums Blamed for Infectious Diseases



Due to congestion in slum settlements, the environment and its surroundings tend to be filthy as there are no alternative ways of living for this population. Residents have a low-wage earning history and are from poor backgrounds. They depend on little-income jobs. For instance,  working at construction sites where they earn up to approximately 2 dollars a day

Most women in the slums work as casual laborers example ‘mama fua’ by washing clothes and getting paid at the end of the day’s job while others have small ‘vibandas’ where they do business selling vegetables and fruits. Some women are housewives whereby they are left at home while their spouses go out trying to get a coin to feed on.

According to the  Kenya population census conducted in 2019, Kibera has approximately 250,000 people. This means the population has to share all the resources available in the region equally. Most of the people in the slum areas leave in 10 by 10 feet single houses where a whole family of 5 may stay. This is because of the ever-growing slum as more people come to settle in these zones while children are also born and raised here.

Think of the Mabati and mud houses in the slums. Without regular cleanliness, there is a lot of dust in them which leads to infection with respiratory diseases like Asthma and tuberculosis (TB). The available dumping sites are full of waste and are just left unattended. Once in a while, the waste is burnt and the smoke moves around to every corner. In these squeezed houses most of the families cook using stoves and firewood. The firewood is lit outside these houses where on a daily basis it remains a cooking point. During rainy seasons, you will find most of the families cooking using stoves as they can afford ‘mafuta taa’ at a cheaper price.

Recently while in the Coastal region of  Kenya, President William Ruto launched a gas company and during his speech he stated that in a few months, gas will be available in the country at a cheaper price and most families will be able to afford it. In his speech, he mentioned how families are struggling to use stoves and firewood which ends up affecting their health, especially the smoke emitted by the mentioned above. If this is actualized, it will be a relief to most families, especially in slum settlements.

Most cases of those infected with diseases related to air pollution in the slums include children and the aged as they have weak immune systems. This happens during both seasons, dry and rainy. Health officers and clinicians in the slum settlements of Kibera have reported a high number of people infected with Asthma which is an s a result of the congested environment and smoke from various sources.

Some of the parents whose identity will be hidden explained how their young ones have contracted asthma and would not wish it on someone else as they go through hard times treating their kids. The kids have to survive on inhalers at a young age to support their lives. The parents said they have no option but to stay in the slum areas as it is where they have grown and they have no option for other areas due to a lack of funds to upgrade their standards of living.

Some of the triggers of Asthma include smoke, dust, and polluted air while its symptoms include cough, chest pains, and shortness of breath. According to World Health Organization WHO, Air pollution is the contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Data from WHO shows that  (99%) of the global population breathes air that exceeds provided limits and contains high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures.

Transitioning to the use of clean cooking solutions like the Liquefied-Petroleum-Gas (LPG) will solve the air pollution menace, while also decongesting slums is a possible solution. The houses in the slums should also be well-aerated to help in the process of reducing air pollution. Proper methods of sanitation should be encouraged to observe a clean environment, that is safe for daily activities.

John Mwilwatsi
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