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The Real Needs of the Poor: More Funds for Development, Less for Population Control Needed in Kenya


The major part of my typical day is spent at Maji na Ufanisi (Water and Development), where I work full time. This is a Kenya NGO that improves access to clean water and ensures proper sanitation.

One thing that encourages me to go to work every morning is the thought of the thousands of people close to my home who need tremendous changes in their environments in order to live with dignity.

Our work involves community organization, drainage, irrigation and making clean water accessible to those who live in the slums.

Development or Family Planning?

In Kenya, no one needs to go to the archives to do research in order to understand the simple needs of our poorest citizens. It is baffling to me when some in the West suggest that the most urgent needs of African women include “reproductive health education,” which means more birth control and abortion aimed at reducing our population. How does an abortion help a woman who has to walk 10 kilometers to the nearest well?

Many of our people lack basic medical care. Yet according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “it is estimated that, at present, some $US 9.5 billion is devoted to population control in developing countries” overall. If we really care about the human rights of these people, should not we first guarantee their access to basic health?

It is immediately clear from a quick survey of the slums in Kenya that the bad health of the people is partly caused by the shoddy housing in which they live. The small, flimsy shacks are so close together that the alley’s between them have all but disappeared. There is no space to carry out simple daily activities, and diseases spread quickly because of the congestion. Improperly drained sewage is another deadly threat. Raw sewage of solid and liquid waste drains in front of the slum dwellings.

Garbage collection is almost non-existent and the smell is unbearable. Slum residents have to be organized and relocated to clean up the mess.

Our poorest people are also crying out for food and clothing. Since most are jobless or earn very little, they cannot afford even the most basic items.

If I as a young person can see the simple needs of the people around me, why is so much time and money wasted trying to “discover” the problems and the needs of the world’s poorest people?

Poor people in Kenya can be found all over the world. More than anything they need to be loved. They need a genuine smile, sincere assistance, and an assurance of concern and hope. Can someone please give the poor the attention they really need?

Carolyne Shisubili is a member of the World Youth Alliance and attended the Beijing+5 PrepCom in New York. She serves as a full-time employee for a Kenyan development organization.

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