THE KIDS OF KIBERA; IN AFRICA'S AIDS-RAVAGED SLUMS, COMIC RELIEF BRINGS HOPE TO THE CHILDREN IN Sub-Saharan Africa, Two Thirds of People Live in Slums with Little Access to Health Care, Clean Water, Regular Food or Education

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), March 7, 2007 | Go to article overview

THE KIDS OF KIBERA; IN AFRICA'S AIDS-RAVAGED SLUMS, COMIC RELIEF BRINGS HOPE TO THE CHILDREN IN Sub-Saharan Africa, Two Thirds of People Live in Slums with Little Access to Health Care, Clean Water, Regular Food or Education


Byline: By Brian McIver

IN AFRICA'S AIDS-RAVAGED SLUMS, COMIC RELIEF BRINGS HOPE TO THE CHILDREN IN Sub-Saharan Africa, two thirds of people live in slums with little access to health care, clean water, regular food or education. AIDS decimates the population and leaves children to bring up siblings. But in countries such as Kenya, people are increasingly finding support from vital local projects funded by Comic Relief. With Red Nose Day 2007 on March 16, we travelled to Nairobi to see how your donations make a difference

DIRT, stench and dust blown up by the breeze almost block the glare of the near-equatorial sunshine frowning on Kibera.

Yet even here - in the world's biggest slum where 1.5 million people fight a daily battle against disease, poverty and crime - there is brightness.

These glimmers of hope come from the hope-filled, friendly eyes of the area's children.

Like kids from any other part of the world, they shriek, jump and play.

It's only their ragged clothes and dust-covered feet that remind you of their harsh living conditions.

Smiles are everywhere and these children run between scrawny goats and across train tracks.

They greet every stranger with an outstretched hand and the only three English words they know - "How Are You?" - the trademark greeting all the town's kids seems to know off by heart.

What we cannot be allowed to forget is that some of these kids are living with HIV or AIDS.

The rest are probably among the thousands of orphan-headed families who have lost their parents to disease.

Kibera, near Nairobi in Kenya, covers just one square mile - about the same size as Glasgow city centre.

But within that space are 1.5 million people crammed into shacks made of packed dried mud, plastic, cardboard or any other scavenged materials.

Streets - barely wide enough for a small car - wind all over the small township and are lined with tiny shops and kiosks selling shoes, matches, clothes and food.

Off the main roads are thousands of tiny, four feet wide alleys filled with one and two-room homes separated only by open sewers.

The dusty streets - disease-filled mudbaths in rainy season - are packed with men and women heading to work or home, or just trying to dodge the 100 degree temperatures.

This is whereWinnie Adhiambo lives with her sister Lillian Akinyi.

For a girl of just 12, Winnie's role in the young family is a demanding one.

She became eight-year-old Lillian's "mother" after their mum died of AIDS last year - then within weeks also had to take on the role of nurse when Lillian was diagnosed as HIV positive.

Winnie is one of a brave generation of children forced to grow up quickly by stepping up to the role of parent.

Every day she makes sure her sister gets to school, eats three square meals and gets the right medication.

Brave Winnie said: "I don't have the time for us to be too upset about my mum or Lillian's illness because we both have to go to school and I have to run the house.

"Looking after the family has been a lot of work, but I would never stop and think it's unfair that I have to spend all of my time here.

"I'm just grateful that I am old enough to look after her and that we can stay together."

The girls have no memory of their dad, who died when they were very young.

But, despite her tender years, Winnie is wise enough to realise that her tragic family situation is not unique.

She said: "There are a lot of girls like me who have to look after their brothers or sisters because in Kibera a lot of us have lost our parents."

And she insisted: "I'm still Lillian's sister just as much as ever.

"We laugh and play together and we play football and try to have as much fun as we can. …

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