Neglect of informal settlements is violation of the law

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019 00:00 |
Some parents and guardians wait for their children outside Kenyatta National Hospital. Photo/PD/BERNARD MALONZA

The tragic collapse of a school structure, killing seven children at Precious Talents School in Dagoretti South on Monday, once again laid bare the depths of neglect that informal settlements have been relegated to. 

With virtually no social amenities and services, people who live in Kenyan slums are left to their own devices and the mercy of cartels and profiteers who get rich off the misery of the poor.

The fact that some 800 pupils are crammed in an institution that has neither the requisite structures nor conducive learning environment speaks volumes about the desperation of parents and guardians who enroll their children in such a school.

The desperation is replicated in other areas such as housing and security, where slum dwellers are constantly exposed to danger of collapsing buildings or fatal fire outbreaks, because building and construction standards are only remembered when there is a tragedy.

People living in informal settlements are also perpetually staring at death because of rampant crime, waterborne diseases and food poisoning. It is in the slums that cases of death by consumption of illicit brews are often reported.

As the school incident showed, health facilities, provision of clean water and security services have long been left to religious organisations, private individuals and companies and vigilantes. 

The government, in its all its might, appears only when there is a newsworthy disaster.

Or in case of the police, health and building inspection officers and other supposed standards enforcers, to take bribes. Politicians are mainly seen during election campaigns, because the slums are rich vote-hunting grounds.

This neglect of informal settlements is not only a failure of both levels of government, it is a violation of Article 43 of the Constitution.

While the government is not expected to provide everything, it has the Constitutional duty to deliver the basics that make life bearable for the majority.

But as things stand, millions of Kenyans who live in urban slums and rural areas cannot access basic facilities and services yet they are taxpayers and voters. They end up paying for what they have already paid for in their taxes, and doing what someone they have voted for should be doing. 

It is the failure of governance at is most depressing form, and must end. Immediately.

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