Devastatingly, on 8 March 2011, a fire broke out in Deep Sea destroying 80-90% of the housing structures in the settlement. According to the Kenya Red Cross, up to 10,000 people may have been affected by the fire – a majority of who have been made homeless, and dozens reportedly injured.
The fire spread quickly, in some cases through electricity wires connecting homes to each other. Fire engines had difficulty reaching the area because there is only one access road, which is extremely narrow and uneven.
In recent weeks fires also reportedly broke out in other slums and informal settlements including in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi.
Many families living in Deep Sea lost all of their belongings in the fire, including personal documents. “Now the children have to register for the National Primary School Examinations that are ongoing, whose deadline is 31 March, but for this they need birth certificates, which along with other key documents have been burnt in the fire….” said Diana, a mother of primary-school going children.
There is a high risk of fires in homes in Nairobi’s slums and informal settlements because the quality of materials used, and the construction of homes, is poor.
Overcrowded conditions and haphazard electricity connections also increase the risk of fires. Lack of proper roads limits access by fire services, and lack of access to water leads to fires spreading between houses and other structures extremely quickly. The speed with which the fire spread at Deep Sea, and the large numbers made homeless as a result, starkly illustrates the need for the Kenyan government to address the inadequate housing conditions in informal settlements in Nairobi to ensure that all persons are able to enjoy the right to live somewhere in security and dignity.
Amnesty activists in the UK have been sending solidarity cards to members of the Deep Sea settlement in Nairobi for 3 years now. Since receiving those cards, residents report that no further evictions have taken place.