Aisha, 8 years old,
is living in the slum of Korogocho.

Today, as Xavier Colin meets Aisha, she is smiling. However, not so long ago, she was suffering from severe heart failure. Identified by Tdh, Aisha could go for open-heart surgery and is now able to go to school.

Aisha is an 8-year-old girl living in Korogocho. Today, as the Terre des hommes delegation meets her, she is smiling and in perfect physical health. However, not so long ago, she was suffering from severe heart failure and doomed to die. That’s when a Tdh caseworker identified her, as the little girl lived with her grandmother, an older lady without enough resources to even take her to hospital. Earlier this year, with the help of Tdh, Aisha went for open-heart surgery and is now able to go to school.

An individual story?

Yes, and an exceptional one, indeed.  Aisha is only one of the thousands of children living in what is today the third largest slum in Nairobi, with a population of around 150,000 people. Almost half of that population (43%) are children like Aisha. And it is estimated that 30% of those children do not go to school. Over a space of about 1,5 km2, Korogocho is considered as a labour reserve of unskilled people supporting the middle class elsewhere in Nairobi. A huge concentration of poor people facing basic survival challenges. This influences behaviour which may result in the abuse, exploitation and neglect of children. Many cases of abuse go unreported and unattended because of a lack of recognition of the children’s experiences. Most abuse happens within households.  Aware of this specific situation, Terre des hommes has engaged in a project called: “Prevention and protection measures against violence, abuse and neglect of children in Korogocho”.

How does it work?

The Tdh delegation was most interested in meeting all the staff in the camp. The NGO has adopted a system of «clusters»  (10-house cluster arrangement), which ensures that all parents and adults within a section of the community identified as “risky” for children are involved in efforts and address concerns for those children. The ultimate objective is that the environment eventually becomes safe for young people.
One initiative called the "Zero tolerance initiative” should be highlighted. This targets the youths who are reported to be among the key perpetrators of child abuse in Korogocho, and have also been associated with the high rate of crimes in the camp. So far, we have learned that seven youth groups have been trained and integrated child protection initiatives in their projects. These youths are being financially rewarded, a process based on the activities they undertake.

Dealing with parents also?

Of course! This additional programme is named “Neighbourhood Child protection units”. These are groups of adults who have come together, and are trained to ensure that the rights of children are not violated. So far, Tdh has trained 50 new groups in the different “villages”  of Korogocho. Practically speaking, Tdh provides conditional cash or material support on a merit system to motivate the different clusters.

Some other achievements in Korogocho?

1200 school drop-out cases have been reinserted into education schemes. The goal, indeed, is that 90% of those children remain in school. Already 4500 children affected by violence committed against them have obtained personalised care. 7500 boys and girls are participating in sports and leisure activities, 675 youths have learned a simple trade or obtained support for an income-generating activity. 975 households have been assisted to cover their immediate needs and 300 children have obtained financial aid to cover their school fees or school material.

And how does Aisha survive in this environment?

Well, not long ago, had she survived, she would most probably have had to work on the nearby dumpsite which happens to be the biggest one in Kenya.  As Aisha’s grandmother mentioned, “Aisha is about to go to school, and hundreds of children with her, who otherwise would have had no choice but to stay all day on the dumpsite, earning just a few Kenyan shillings.” In Korogocho, it is widely said that the success - and accountability- of Terre des hommes is measured by the number of boys and girls currently going to school, instead of  working on the dumpsite.

A success for Terre des hommes. And a success, above all, for the children themselves.

Xavier Colin, Terre des hommes ambassador

Photo credit: © Tdh

Watch the video of Aisha before her surgery: