Home News Slum dwellers map their own region

Slum dwellers map their own region

Nairobi, Kenya: Residents of one of Africa’s biggest slums designed a digital map of Kibera. Kibera, on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, is home to thousands of people but still appears as a forest on government maps.

Thirty of its inhabitants used the GPS technology to establish the location of such landmarks as roads and health clinics and uploaded the resulting map onto the Open Street Map website which anyone can update with new data. And when parts of the slum were flooded in May, they quickly drew up a separate map showing which areas had been submerged.

“Major events like floods, fires, mostly go unnoticed. Giving reliable information quickly could be the first step in getting help for the community,” said Primoz Kovacic of Map Kibera, a non-governmental organisation that trained Kibera’s budding surveyors.

“Without basic geographic knowledge, that is, if you don’t know how the resources are distributed like how are hospitals and schools connected with roads, you cannot really talk about improving people’s lives,” Kovacic said.

Such information is useful to the Kenya Red Cross, which deals with 144 fires in Kibera each month.

Kibera’s dwellers hope to go further and draw global attention to the problems of their over-populated slum via the Voice of Kibera website, where they post information about local events and issues via SMS. The website also aggregates news from other local media.

The Red Cross believes such home-grown websites can become platforms for discussions among Kibera’s residents on how to prevent and mitigate frequent disasters like floods, fires and epidemics.

“It’s about putting people at the centre of the (humanitarian) programmes,” said a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Source: Reuters AlertNet