Kenya, a country bordering Somalia and Ethiopia, has faced increasing obstacles combatting homelessness. With over 2 million citizens fighting homelessness in Kenya, the problem is only worsening. However, newly implemented organizations are seeing rapid improvements through their aid those in need.

The Problem in Numbers

It is estimated that in the near future, the homeless population will rise by over 200,000 people. Of the 2 million Kenyans without proper shelter, over 50% comprise of children. Most of these children spend their lives on the streets, struggling to make ends meet.

It’s important to know that only 2% of the formally constructed houses target lower-income families. This leaves over a million citizens in Kenya without the opportunity to find a home. Adding to the problem, 68% of Kenyans are without land documentation or tenure security which hurts their ability to find a home and house their families.

Leading Causes

A variety of factors have led to the rise in the homeless population. A primary factor is the commercial interests of businesses and other groups, which have displaced hundreds of thousands of Kenyans. Under these severe land shortages, Kenyans must cram themselves in slums, as the cost of land continues to increase. As a result, certain groups may resort to violence as a means of garnering more land. Some communities have reported sightings of Tharaka herders, who often fight others for land. River Naka, a place filled with farmers, was raided by these herders and left hundreds homeless.

Recently, despite the spread of COVID-19, more than 7,000 people from land in Nairobi slums were evicted, forcing them into homelessness. The government believed these individuals were living on “public land” and acted accordingly.


Various issues have stemmed from the severe homelessness problem in Kenya. Kenyans who are homeless often only have one meal a day. Malnutrition commonly occurs among homeless youth because of this food shortage. Another problem is the increase in theft as adults and children forced to live on the streets steal money and food to feed themselves. Due to police intervention, thousands of homeless Kenyans face severe consequences in jail.

Another major problem stemming from homelessness in Kenya is HIV/AIDS. With no access to proper medical treatment, the homeless community in Kenya are frequently exposed to the deadly virus.

The Road to Change

There are an estimated 250 organizations in Kenya that look to help combat homelessness in Kenya. One of the more prominent organizations is Habitat for Humanity which provides for the needs of Kenya’s slums. Habitat for Humanity hired numerous volunteers to build affordable housing for low-income families battling homelessness. They promote the idea of homeownership to low-income Kenyans in order to help them find stable housing and therefore escape poverty.

Another successful organization is Kenya Children of Hope, which seeks to rescue homeless children from the streets. In one month alone, Kenya Children of Hope has saved over 300 children, placing them under safe care.

Looking to the Future

Even with hundreds of organizations pitching in to help combat homelessness in Kenya, governmental intervention is key to make more serious progress. The consistent evictions along with the land restrictions increase the prevalence of homelessness.

For Kenya’s government to reach a future with a reduced homeless population, they must act in an empathetic manner in cases of land distribution. They must also prioritize the well being of their citizens in the COVID-19 pandemic. If the numerous organizations looking to end the homelessness in Kenya were to receive substantial aid from the government, hundreds of thousands of Kenyans would greatly benefit.

– Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Flickr

“Give me sweets” is one of the phrases filling the air of Nairobi and the streets of Kenya as a whole.

Anyone who has ever been a tourist in Kenya is probably familiar with those words and the collection of palms pressing themselves onto the windows of the tourist vans. While it may have seemed like an annoyance or an adorable group of Kenyan children, what is really pressing itself against those cars is one of Kenya’s greatest problems.

According to Kenya Children of Hope, there are over 250,000 children living on the streets of Kenya. However, with the 1.1 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, the numbers are likely higher than what is reported.

Many of these children are sent by their parents to work or beg on the streets. Others are either orphaned or abandoned.

I remember walking through Nairobi with my parents as a young child and wondering why children and teenagers were lying down in the middle of squares in Nairobi. The answer I was given was that they were “sniffing glue.” I did not know what that meant at the time, but this drug problem is one of the many issues facing Kenyan street children.

The other issues facing these children include harassment (sexual and otherwise), a general danger of violence, sexual exploitation, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, abuse, neglect, hunger, lack of shelter, pregnancy and lack of sanitary conditions.

Yet another problem facing street children in Kenya is the information surrounding them. Kenya Children of Hope states that the number of street children that are counted and reported differ from study to study. There is little consistency and it is hard to target a problem that is not fully understood.

How can the United States, the Kenyan government or outside organizations know how much aid to put toward street children in Kenya if they do not know how many there are?

Another issue with the research on street children in Kenya is the under representation of street girls. Kenyan Children of Hope reports that 25 percent of street children in Nairobi District are girls. Part of the reason for lower coverage of street girls may be because of the occupations taken my each gender.

While boys tend to collect garbage, beg and find odd jobs, street girls often end up in the sex trade.

There are many good people working to help and feed these children on a small scale, like a teacher described by BBC news. Other organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages are doing good work and raising money to sponsor one child at a time.

While this work is necessary, the organizations working to help Kenyan street children need more funding. Rather than helping one child at a time, focus should be put on aiding all of the poor children in Kenya.

– Clare Holtzman

Sources: BBC, Kenya Children of Hope, SOS Children’s Villages
Photo: Amka Kenya