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Lessons from Mwakirunge dumpsite

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 - 12:45

As we drive across the piles of refuse, I get appalled by the blatant disregard for the well-being of the environment and by the eyesore that Mwakirunge is. What was meant as a residential area was now used as a dumpsite for all manner of waste. 

I was embarrassed seeing people comfortably living in Mwakirunge dumpsite when I was ungrateful to God for non-issues like a bad flu that got me off balance, traffic that almost got me late to work, that plate of food that corroded my stomach or the heavy rains that wet me as I tried to get home.To them, it was home and had been since they were born. The word home paints the picture of a stone house or worse earthen or wooden.

However, these were makeshift shacks made from scarps of tin, bits of wood and in instances mere carton boxes that served families of five.

The structures seemed unable to keep out the worst of the weather. My visit to the area had been prompted by a news item on delivery of basic services in relation to the broke state of the government.I had picked Mombasa as part of the area of interest to consolidate diverse views from extreme parts of the country.However, the moment I saw the dumpsite, the story switched gears to human rights.

I slowly realized, the dumpsite provided sustenance for the people in close proximity. Once the lorries dump the waste, oblivious of the health risk, children as young as 6 years old and adults up to 70 years old rummage through the waste to scavenge for that which they can make a quick shilling from and which would be fed to their families. 

An interview with one of the dumpsite custodians reveals that the food items dumped are usually expired products from supermarkets. These hard facts may be known to the people but would you compare this to living without a plate of food at least a day?

On some days it is not as busy, there are only a few people scavenging among the refuse.  However, Mwakirunge is not home to human scavengers alone. Vultures are the main competition. In some cases, there have been human casualties due to the aggression of the birds. 

The dumpsite is a matter of life and death for the people that benefit from it and have therefore selected a leader amongst them to oversee activities.

From a far, it may look like a no man’s land until a stranger steps foot and a group of young men approach in question. Lucky for me, I mentioned ActionAid Kenya that has been closely working with the people under a project dubbed DTV to ensure they know and can demand for their rights. Inevitably, the county government in the area has a huge role to play, but that is an issue for another day. My biggest concern has to be the children who have dropped out of school to survive on the dumpsite that has caused formidable immorality.

Young girls have fallen victim to early motherhood, rape and a general loss of a sense of direction. The young men on the other hand are popularly known to engage in hard drugs and uncontrollable cheap liquor drinking.

One could easily blame them for not taking charge of their lives,but an environment without mentors easily digresses the question.

It’s no surprise to see an entire family engaging in dumpsite collection for money or the least lead an ‘okay’ life, in this case been extremely relative.

The story on the above can possibly form a book but the lessons, immortal.If you live in a decent home, eat a clean meal and had a chance to go through a proper education because someone found it deserving for you, please be grateful. Your normal is definitely not someone else’s. Never forget that!