Kibera is Africa
's largest slum
, with a population of 800,000. It is located only 20 miles away from Nairobi
's capitol. And yet, in spite of its large size and central location, it does not officialy exist. It appears on none of the nation's maps. It gets no assistance from the government; it has no police
, no hospitals
, no electricity
, no running water, no postal service. Its name comes from the word "Kibra", which means "jungle".
Kibera's streets are littered with plastic bags full of excrement which serve as toilets for the majority of the population. Water is provided for a fee by those residents fortunate enough to have a pipe that connects to Nairobi's water main. Protection, too, is provided for a fee by a number of rival gangs -- hardly the right kind of force to stop the recurrent patterns of ethnic violence between the destitute tribes that compose it.
The only service provided to Kibera by the government is a commuter train to Nairobi. For a small fee, the train can take Kibera residents to the city, the one possible source for social mobility. And yet, those who are serious about leaving the slum choose to save the modest toll and walk to work instead.