Ms. Elizabeth Mbatha (extreme right) walks alongside former UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan and former Mozambican First Lady Ms. Graca Machel as they tour Kibera slums in Nairobi on Monday. Pic © Tom Osanjo/UN-HABITAT
With the luck of the draw, Elizabeth Mbatha found herself selected to meet the VIP and his entourage which included former Mozambican First Lady Graça Machel.
The two played an important role in ending a post election stalemate in Kenya which culminated in violence and loss of more than 1,000 lives. They are in the country to assess the progress made on the peace pact they helped broker to end the dispute.
Mr. Annan and Ms. Machel took time off from the mediation duties to visit the slums and that is how they came face to face with Elizabeth and her fellow slum dwellers.
“Our biggest problem here is lack of access to quality medical care. There are no public health facilities here and the few private ones charge exorbitant fees making many sick people unable to get treatment even for simple ailments,” she said in Swahili through a translator.
She said slum residents were also in dire need of good schools for their children. “Education is one of the keys that can open the doors for our children but as it is right now, they are not getting good education,” she added, saying the plight of orphans was particularly dire.
Her boldness and seemed to have touched Ms. Machel and when the two dignitaries took a walk through the slums to see for themselves first hand the living conditions there, the former first lady wrapped her arms around the slum dweller as Elizabeth continued with her narration.
The dignitaries visited a sanitation block built by a local NGO Maji na Ufanisi in collaboration with UN-HABITAT and a new block of flats built as part of a joint venture between the Kenyan government and the agency.
The 300 two-bedroom flats have electricity and running water, a stark contrast to the shacks previously occupied by the slum dwellers. The houses have also been fenced to ensure adequate security. The first beneficiaries of the project moved in September. The rentals are equivalent to USD 10 per month.
“This is a very good idea and I’m impressed with the way lives have been changed here. The people have been given hope. There is however room for improvement especially in the area of health care,” Mr. Annan said.