Jan 12, 2018

As slums face heat extremes, 'I feel really scared,' residents say

Thomson Reuters Foundation

At Mathari Hospital, flanking Nairobi’s Mathare slum, a grandmother waits in line to see a doctor, struggling to calm the crying baby in her arms.

“It’s the heat rashes,” she tells a nurse, rolling off a linen cloth covering the baby’s inflamed skin, before she’s ushered in to see a doctor.

As climate change brings more heat extremes around the world, cities are facing particular problems – and slums are particularly strongly affected in many places, scientists say.

In Nairobi, for instance, summer temperatures in Kibera, Mathare and Mukuru slums are often higher than in other parts of the city, a study by scientists at Johns Hopkins University found.

Peak summer temperatures in all three slums were more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit higher than those recorded at the Kenya Meteorological Department offices, in a wooded area about a half mile from Kibera, the city’s largest slum, the scientists said.

“The slums are hotter because of lack of trees and vegetation,” said Anna Scott, a climate scientist from John Hopkins University and a lead author of the study, in an email interview.


When temperatures last February peaked at 32 degrees Celsius – well above normal Nairobi highs - at his tin-roofed home, “I got really scared because I was feeling like the sun was just above our heads,” he said.