Nairobi Garbage Dump Causing Cancer, Respiratory Infection, and Health Complications, Threatening 200,000 of City’s Poorest People, Says Concern Worldwide


NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The international humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide has launched a report ( on the profound health and human rights violations that Nairobi‘s sprawling 30-acre Dandora garbage dump is inflicting on some 200,000 of the city’s poorest residents. Based on evidence collected in the surrounding neighborhoods, Concern found that the dumpsite has greatly impacted human health, directly causing increased rates of respiratory disease, endocrine complications, and cancer. At least half of children living around the dumpsite have heavy metal concentrations in their blood that exceed the maximum level set by the World Health Organization.

The most affected are the as many as 10,000 people—many of whom are children—who scavenge the dumpsite for recyclables. At the time of the report research, at least 25 percent of the workers had recent injuries caused by scrap metal and toxic waste accidents, while an average 9,000 respiratory infections were treated at the nearby Kariobangi Catholic Mission Clinic each year between 2009 and 2011. The risks that scavenging poses to children are particularly severe: 53 percent are suffering from respiratory tract infections, coughs, and asthma and more than 70 percent have reported being victims of abuse on the dumpsite.

“Over half of those who scour the dump on a daily basis are under 18 and many are even as young as 10 years old,” said Anne O’Mahony, Concern Worldwide’s Country Director in Kenya. “Most of these children have dropped out of school to sort and recycle waste and earn a little more than $1 a day. This contributes significantly to household income and to the survival of families.”

Despite the significant threat that it poses to public health, conflict between the City Council of Nairobi and the Kenya Airport Authority over the relocation of the dumpsite has put the decommissioning process at a standstill after eight years of planning. Despite official promises of improved living conditions, very little information about the process has been made publicly available, fostering mistrust and dissent among the communities surrounding the dump.

“The location of the dump for the city of Nairobi in the middle of a dense urban population is unacceptable,” said O’Mahony.  “To improve the health of the population, the dump has to be closed and the site made safe for human habitation.  We will have to work together with the Kenyan Government to find alternative sources of employment and income for those currently living off the dump.”

In 2011, Concern Worldwide and its local partner, Kutoka Network, piloted a program to support 100 solid waste workers by granting each worker KES 20,000 ($260) and equipped them with vocational skills training to start their own businesses.  Following the program, 60 percent of the businesses succeeded and 30 percent showed smaller success. Only 10 percent failed. The report concludes that such projects must be a priority so that those relying on the dumpsite have an alternative way of earning income.

The report, titled ‘Trash and Tragedy: The impact of garbage on human rights in Nairobi City,’ was launched together with Concern’s partners Kutoka Network and CESVI.

About Concern Worldwide
Concern Worldwide is an international, non-governmental humanitarian organization dedicated to reducing extreme poverty, with more than 3,200 personnel working in 25 of the world’s poorest countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Concern Worldwide targets the root causes of extreme poverty through programs in health, education, livelihoods and microfinance, HIV and AIDS, and emergency response, directly reaching more than 9.5 million people. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Crystal Wells
Communications Officer
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SOURCE Concern Worldwide

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