World Health & Population

World Health & Population January 2004 : 0-0.doi:10.12927/whp.2004.17632

The Triad of Poverty, Environment and Child Health in Nairobi Informal Settlements

Mary Amuyunzu-Nyamongo and Negussie Taffa


Twenty four focus group discussions and 62 in depth interviews were conducted in four informal settlements in Nairobi in 2002 to explore the community members' expression and understanding of the linkages between urban poor environments and childhood illnesses. Community members identified respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, malaria, skin problems and malnutrition as the five leading illnesses among children aged under-5 years. The mothers linked these illnesses to lack of adequate and clean water, unsafe waste disposal systems, lack of adequate and nutritious food and air pollution. The ability of the mothers to make these linkages, which are quoted verbatim in the paper, shows that their children's illnesses could mainly be due to the impoverished status and environments rather than their mothers' lack of biomedical conceptualization of disease processes. The opportunity for child survival programs exists as illustrated by the communities' conceptual understanding of the linkages between the environment and child health outcomes. The challenge for any child survival program is therefore to build on it.

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