Note from Krista: I have not experienced the rainy season in Kibera, but I have two vivid memories of rain in Africa. The first is being caught in a sudden rain storm in Uganda in a home with a young family. The sound of the rain was deafening on the tin roof. And having no electricity during the day had gone unnoticed because of the daylight - but now that the sky had turned a dark grey, it was very dark. I sat cuddled with kids on my lap and sang songs with them over the loud noise of the rain on the roof. My second memory is last year when I visited Kenya, it was in March and just on the verge of the rainy season. We had no rain during the days - but there were two nights at the end of our time that it poured all night. In the morning, when we navigated our way around Kibera slums we had to walk carefully not to slip and slide in the slick mud. It was so hard to walk in it! And we were covered in mud - our shoes were just caked with it. I remember having a hard time walking along the flat road without falling - and then we got to a point where there was a hill. We looked at each other with dread - I am klutzy at best and knew I would wipe out! I was never so happy to see our Kenyan friend Nelson come around the corner just then, and I clung on to his arm (he had more suitable footwear than my treadless shoes) as I slipped my way down the hill. Just glad that I didn't fall as I'd slide the whole way down! In a couple hours the hot African sun had dried the wet mud and puddles - but those early mornings gave me just a taste of what life in the rainy season would be like for residents as you'll read below. Again - thankful for an insider's perspective from Bryan who lives in Kibera.
For centuries, rain has always been a blessing and for sure it is, but for the people in Kibera it’s a sign of the worst and possibly the good to come. Rainy season would begin from March to May and this year they were a bit late because of the drastic changes in the climate. After the long scorching heat of January and February, the people of Kibera can bow to have a sigh of relief because the dirt and the hot weather will soon be done away with. But this is just the beginning of the story, in Kibera, rainy is a sign of gloom and devastation and many people would be left with losses at the end of the downpour.
Many houses in Kibera are made of mud and roofs made of corrugated iron sheets that would easily leak when it rains, there is poor drainage all over the slum and residents find it hard moving from one point to another. Some people would harvest rainy water for drinking and this would later on result to a number of diseases such as typhoid and cholera because apart from the roofs being corrugated and rusty, human waste and other toxic tackles would find their way onto those rooftops. The walls of the houses made of mud would easily fall forcing rainwater into the houses of some resident leaving them with nothing but dejection.
This is the time of the year that there would be minimal attendance in schools because of the impassable roads, flooded alleys and seasonal streams flowing all around the slum. It’s that time of the year where families would use containers to drain sewage water from their homes because of the poor drainage and architectural design of slum houses which are built with minimal or no architectural approach. Garbage and rubbish would be washed from dumpsites to across streets and a viscous foul smell would spread widely all over the slum. These phenomenon would be brought about the overflown pit latrines and the human excrement along corridors of alleys in Kibera. At night people would ease themselves in dark corridors because most of the public toilets are closed or maybe they are located very far.
Rain comes with its opportunities too. For some people, this is the time when they would buy umbrellas, gumboots and heavy jackets in bulk to resell to the dwellers at a favorably profitable price. While walking along the streets in Kibera then you would see groups of young men raking through drainage trenches. It is a belief that when it pours, money, that is coins, will be found inside these drainage channels. Young men would spend the early hours of the morning trying their luck to unearth money in these gutters since majority of them are idle. At some point other groups will emerge carrying heavy metal magnets, trailing the drainage dugouts and streams of Kibera looking for anything that resembles a metal to sell as scraps.
At the end of the day one good thing about rainfall in Kibera is that it get rid of the dust around and provide free water for washing clothes to the residents of Kibera.
A flooded road in Fort Jesus, Kibera. People are forced to use the edges to avoid the mud and the dirty water.
A house with corrugated rooftop in Kibera, the rooftop leaks when it rains and water from its sur- face is usually contaminated with toxic substances because of the many garbage on it. Stones and tires are used to prevent the leakage and the roof- top from flying away when there’s a strong wind.
Harvested rainwater right outside my house in Kibera. Many people would harvest rainwater not for drinking but for washing clothes and maybe household utensils.
A young man stands next to their house as he tries to prevent rainwater from flowing inside their house in Soweto West area, Kibera.
A mud walled house has been renovated after a substantial downpour.
People walking along the edges of a muddy road in Raila village, Kibera. Beneath the road there’s a cliff formed as a result of a downpour triggered landslide.
Bryan Jaybee was born and raised in Kibera slums where he still resides. He is 22 years old and a journalism student at Multimedia University of Kenya, currently in his final year. Bryan will be sharing an insider’s view on life in Kibera every Tuesday on our blog with his photos and words. You can follow Bryan on instagram at @kiberastories for daily posts on life in Kibera.