A Trip to Mathare Valley Slum in Nairobi, Kenya

NOTE: Have you ever visited a place like the Mathare Valley in a third-world country? Would you consider joining a missions team? I promise: you will never be the same again, and you will never look at your blessings in the same manner. Your perspective will alter the course of your life. I visited two Nairobi, Kenya, slums in February, 2023. The following description really does not do justice regarding my experience.

Putrid smells permeate the air of Mathare Valley Slum, where approximately 600,000 people live in a square mile of muck and mire. Nairobi is also home to another adjacent slum – Korogocho – where an additional 750,000 lives are held captive by their enemy called poverty.

Human waste flows in the streets – if you call them streets. Children, using broken pottery, drink from cesspools of urine and feces. Narrow, dirt paths wind through a maze of adjacent rusty tin shacks. Our guide cautions us to be careful, for cuts and even scrapes on any part of the body require at least a three-day hospital stay to combat tetanus or any number of serious – even life-threatening – diseases. 

Mathare Valley dwellers typically occupy spaces no larger than ten by ten feet, with no windows. Seven to ten inhabitants pile into these dark, hot crevices, where temperatures swell to nearly 100 degrees. I ducked into several of these “homes” to offer love, a smile and encouragement. Mommas squeezed my hand as desperate prayers were lifted for food and provision. Mathare Valley Slum is home to some of God’s most precious people!

Mountains of rotting garbage surround the tiny settlement, where deprived humanity searches for food remnants – enough to survive another day. Others search the debris hoping to find anything sellable in the open-air market, where flies swarm – blanketing food and the faces of toddlers.

Mathare Valley is unkind, as its occupants seek a dreadful living. The cries of naked, orphaned babies and toddlers saturate the atmosphere. Many have been left behind by parents who either fled north in search of a better life or died from AIDS. Rape is commonplace. Prostitutes beckon passersby, as desperation bids them to sell their bodies. Pregnant teenagers line the doorways of homes already too full. Teeming masses of beggars surround visitors. Both their eyes and hands reach out for help. Visiting faces dripping with tears, of necessity, must refuse. 

In short, Mathare Valley is hell on earth.

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