Health & Fitness

Include humanitarian support in State move to upgrade informal areas

slum

An informal settlement in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

edwardomete

Summary

  • The government’s recent move to accelerate issuance of title deeds to Nairobi’s informal areas is commendable.
  • The zoning and gazettement of Kibera and Mukuru slums should give a documented blueprint on what a government with a vision can deliver.
  • When this is over, third generation informal settlement dwellers should finally become formalized citizens of the metropolis.

The government’s recent move to accelerate issuance of title deeds to Nairobi’s informal areas is commendable. Such areas, typically characterised by historic non-formalised property ownership, have poor social amenities and services delivery. They also do not contribute to the rightful tax baskets.

Previously, the titling exercise saw over 50,000 issued, another 16,000 or thereabouts are expected to be issued soon.

Exploring similar lines of action, global magazine Economist, ran a story a month or so ago, paralleling Lagos’ quest towards bringing order and sanity in its informal settlements. Insights from the article, were based on studies from slum in the Americas. Their conclusion: property ownership formalisation acts as a foundation towards prosperity, better service delivery, improved revenue collection and other aspects of socio-economic development. A win-win situation for government and squatters.

Kenya’s informal area’s landscape is shrouded with a lot of grayness and “unique economies”. There is a bridge in Mathare North where one pays cartels to cross Mather river. Same observations exist in water, electricity and business operations “taxes”. Uncertainty over who is the rightful owner, hinders any improvement developments, despite habitation for decades.

Lack of a coherent strategy on the right approach to solving the issues is to blame. At the very core of the current attempt, is ensuring local participation and verification of ownership. The Nyumba Kumi method, census as well as provincial administration data are adequate to adjudicate this.

Two new models are especially commendable; use of the Community Planning Department and the Lands ministry’s “Outreach Lands Clinics”. The latter brings ministry officials and surveyors to the ground, which together with administrative officers is a more effective and quicker ground covering.

In militaristic fashion, the NMS, Lands and Planning as well as Interior Coordination ministries seem to have struck a formula: move block by block or slum after another, instead of a global attempt. If kept, in three years, the bane of living in uncertainty will be finally resolved.

There is a shining example of how the approach has worked, success stories of the historically troubled Embakasi Ranching Scheme people finally getting titles is good news. Others, like the Githunguri Ranching and Kahawa Sukari schemes along Thika road and Juja should be roped in.

On the healthcare front, the impact of such initiatives are noted on public health savings. With property ownership, access roads, water and sewer lines as well as building codes and regulation are enforced. The end result: fewer communicable diseases, better security and the invaluable dignified-living.

The zoning and gazettement of Kibera and Mukuru slums should give a documented blueprint on what a government with a vision can deliver. When this is over, third generation informal settlement dwellers should finally become formalized citizens of the metropolis.

What is missing, however, is the development and humanitarian support inputs in the process.