Trash and tragedy: the impact of garbage on human rights in Nairobi City

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Garbage Dump of Death Is “Unacceptable” says Concern

Aid agency launches report highlighting the dangers of scavenging on massive Nairobi dump site where children try to earn just €1 per day

Concern Worldwide, Ireland’s largest humanitarian organisation, has today launched a report highlighting the effects poor garbage disposal has on the lives of people in Nairobi, Kenya, and described as “unacceptable” a situation where 10,000 people – many of them children - try to make a living directly from a massive urban dump site on a daily basis.
The report, launched with the organisation’s partners Kutoka Network and CESVI, is entitled ‘Trash and Tragedy: The impact of garbage on human rights in Nairobi City’.

The document highlights the plight of over 200,000 people who are adversely affected either directly or in directly by the Dandora dumpsite.

The dump site exists due to the absence of a functional waste management system in Nairobi, which has resulted in indiscriminate dumping of waste in Dandora, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city. “Over half of those who scour the dump on a daily basis are under 18 and many are even as young as 10 years old,” says Anne O’Mahony, Concern Worldwide’s Country Director in Kenya. “Most of these children have dropped out of school to sort out and recycle waste and earn between approximately €1 a day. This contributes significantly to household income and to the survival of families.” Contamination from the dumpsite has adversely affected human health, particularly through respiratory diseases, endocrine complications and cancer.

At least half the children in surrounding neighbourhoods have heavy metal concentrations in their blood that exceed the maximum level set by the World Health Organization.

Despite these risks, up to 10,000 people seek to make a living on dumpsite on a daily basis, while over 200,000 people have indirect economic and social links to it.

The anticipated relocation of the dump to Ruai has encountered problems, however,, both from the Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) and from the communities in Korogocho that depend on the dumpsite to earn a living. The KAA argues that the new location is too close to the flight path, increasing the risk of bird damage to flights.

“The location of the dump for the city of Nairobi in the middle of a dense urban population is unacceptable. To improve the health of the population the dump has to be closed and the site made safe for human habitation. We will have to work together with the Kenyan Government to find alternative sources of employment and income for those currently living off the dump.” said Anne O’Mahony Country Director, Concern Worldwide.

In 2011, Concern Worldwide and Kutoka Network piloted a programme to support 100 solid waste workers by granting each worker KES 20,000 (200 euro) and equipped them with vocational skills training to start their own businesses. The project aimed to establish safer and more productive livelihoods by providing an alternative source of income other than the dependency on the dumpsite. Following the programme 60 per cent of the businesses set up succeeded, 30 per cent registered minimum success, while 10 per cent failed. Projects such as this should become a priority to provide those relying on the dump site with an alternative way of sourcing income.

Notes to Editors:

Health issues

Scavenging on the dump is done manually with no protection gear and equipment thus exposing the dumpsite workers to serious health complications. At the time of the report research, at least 25 per cent of the workers had fresh injuries as a result of accidents from scrap metal and toxic waste. An average 9,000 respiratory infections were treated at the Kariobangi Catholic Mission Clinic between 2009 and 2011.

Concern’s report partners

The Kutoka Network: This is a voluntary gathering of Christian teams who minister to people living in the various informal settlements. The network aims to analyze the reality of the slums, to share experiences, to reflect together on the pastoral approach , to plan common initiative and actions and to highlight positive aspects of the reality of the community living in the informal settlements.

CESVI: Established in 1985 in Bergamo, Cesvi is an Italian independent association, working for global solidarity. Cesvi now works in 28 countries all over the world, in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Cesvi is strongly committed to making sure that international aid