Overview of migration, poverty and health dynamics in Nairobi City's slum settlements

J Urban Health. 2011 Jun;88 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S185-99. doi: 10.1007/s11524-011-9595-0.


The Urbanization, Poverty, and Health Dynamics research program was designed to generate and provide the evidence base that would help governments, development partners, and other stakeholders understand how the urban slum context affects health outcomes in order to stimulate policy and action for uplifting the wellbeing of slum residents. The program was nested into the Nairobi Urban Health and Demographic Surveillance System, a uniquely rich longitudinal research platform, set up in Korogocho and Viwandani slum settlements in Nairobi city, Kenya. Findings provide rich insights on the context in which slum dwellers live and how poverty and migration status interacts with health issues over the life course. Contrary to popular opinions and beliefs that see slums as homogenous residential entities, the findings paint a picture of a highly dynamic and heterogeneous setting. While slum populations are highly mobile, about half of the population comprises relatively well doing long-term dwellers who have lived in slum settlements for over 10 years. The poor health outcomes that slum residents exhibit at all stages of the life course are rooted in three key characteristics of slum settlements: poor environmental conditions and infrastructure; limited access to services due to lack of income to pay for treatment and preventive services; and reliance on poor quality and mostly informal and unregulated health services that are not well suited to meeting the unique realities and health needs of slum dwellers. Consequently, policies and programs aimed at improving the wellbeing of slum dwellers should address comprehensively the underlying structural, economic, behavioral, and service-oriented barriers to good health and productive lives among slum residents.

MeSH terms

  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Poverty Areas*
  • Poverty*
  • Urban Population