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Widow’s battle to feed family of 10 on 34p a day

A Widow living in Africa’s second biggest shanty town has told how some days she and her family of 10 survive on as little as 40 shillings, which is about 34p or $0.5 a day.

Wilbroda Aoko Wandera, 48, was widowed 16 years ago. She and her 10 children live in a mud building in Kibera, just outside Nairobi, in Kenya.

"My husband had been sick for a long time,” she said. “But his relatives chased me away with my children and demolished our house upcountry when he died, saying I had something to do with his death,” she told United Nations news service, IRIN. “Since then life has been one long struggle.”

Ms Wandera, has no steady job and sells spinach, plaits people’s hair and washes clothes for money

"I have tried many things to feed my family and to put the children into school; right now two boys are in secondary school.

"I have sold donuts and worked as a cleaner at the Catholic Church nearby. One time I got lucky when the local chief allowed me to build a kiosk near the road. I used the front part as a salon where I plaited people's hair and lived in the back with my children.” But her salon was demolished in 2007 to pave way for the government’s Kibera upgrading programme. Now Ms Wandera and her family live by the river in a mud house she built herself.

"We mostly live on one meal a day. This is hard, especially on the children. I have learnt to make meals for the whole family even when I have only 40 shillings ($0.50). With this, I buy maize flour for 20 shillings, sugar for five, paraffin for 10, a lemon for two and water for three. This will make a pot of porridge and everybody can get a cup. That takes us to the next day.

"On a good day, when I make at least 100 shillings, the diet is better; I buy maize flour for 45, sardines for 20, tomatoes for 10, paraffin for 10 and cooking oil for 10. This is enough for two meals for the whole family. But the days I make 100 are rare. Besides, when I make more than 100, I put away some money for school fees and rent. Life in Kibera is hard but it is 10 times harder for a widow with children."

In Kibera, 1 million people live on top of each other in a space of just 2.5km sq. Overcrowding, aid groups, agree is probably Kibera’s the biggest “problem”. Because of the high rate of HIV/Aids (about 50%), young women are often widowed and left as the primary caregiver of four or more children.

Hayley attribution