The Devastation of Mathare: An Anza Maisha Initiative

In the heart of Nairobi lies the busy Mathare slum. The recent floods in Nairobi have turned this vibrant community into a scene of tragedy and despair. Though Nairobi has always been prone to seasonal rains, this year was different, with the city experiencing over 200 millimeters of rain in three days (according to the Kenya Meteorological Department).

As a result, there was a major overflow of the Nairobi River that engulfed Mathare and its surroundings, leaving nothing but muddy pools in their place. Houses were washed down the raging Nairobi River, and at least 15 people lost their lives, while over 500 were left homeless.

The eMentoring Africa directors visited Mathare to donate clothes and food stuff donated by friends and well-wishers, especially Christians from St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Kitisuru. This was as a result of our call for donations under the #AnzaMaisha initiative. We are eternally grateful!

As we slowly drove along the narrow and very busy road in Mathare (recently tarmacked), my body slowly went numb. While I did not know what to expect, the hundreds of people walking up and down the road told me things were still not right.

Our host, Kiash (nickname), a resident of Mathare, welcomed us with a warm smile and walked us through the mud-laden narrow alleys of Mathare. Through donations, he is putting up a school and sports center (karate) so that Ms. Patricia, an ECD/lower primary school teacher, can relocate her school which was washed away by the raging waters. Patricia was busy in a semi-lit small room, perhaps 10×6 feet, teaching the lovely little children of Mathare. I will share her story in my next post.

This wonderful man, Kiash, also has a ‘movie theatre’ (a 10×10 dark room with flat-screen TVs and benches) where he provides a safe space for the people of Mathare, especially the boy child, to watch soccer on DSTV, for a small fee. On a good day, and depending on the game, the little room can fit 80 people, each paying about 30-50/ per game. That is one of his livelihoods.

We then met my mentee, Maureen, whom we mentored in Korogocho (another huge slum in Nairobi) between the year 2009-2011. Maureen, now married to a wonderful gentleman, Jacob, is now a mother of 3. Together, they run the Oasis of Hope, a safe space library/study center where kids come in the evening to do their homework and on weekends to be mentored and inspired by the couple and the team of volunteers.

Our final tour was to the actual site of the demolition – the banks of Nairobi River. While efforts to resettle the homeless are still ongoing, the demolition continues, and many of the Mathare residents are still ransacking the remains to pick the debris of whatever they can salvage and sell. Simply put, the situation remains very dire. Most of the residents rely on informal employment, which has been disrupted by the floods. With their homes and sources of livelihood gone, the path to recovery seems almost impossible.

Despite the bleak circumstances, the spirit of the Mathare community remains unbroken – thanks to people like Kiash, Maureen, Jacob, and others. Every morning, this team wake up believing that by God’s grace, they will get donations to help settle families – one by one. Through the AnzaMaisha drive by @ementoringafrica, we are inviting all who can to join us in resettling the unsettled families. The story of the Mathare residents serves as a poignant reminder of the strength of the Kenyan people in rebuilding and supporting each other in such disasters.

~ Esther Muchiri, CEO eMentoring Africa

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