Saturday, January 9, 2010

Re: The mess called Kuramo

This post is written in response to Gbenga Olatunji on his article on the Sunday Guardian[03/01/2010] about Kuramo. Kuramo the site of our first PortaKlinic is a community dear to K’arale. I do welcome responses on what can be done to improve life for its inhabitants. We also welcome the input of other NGOs interested in training the many jobless youth there to become economically empowered.
Dear Mr Olatunji,
I do agree with you; Kuramo, the most central and easily accessible beach in Lagos is a mess in its present state but before we condemn and destroy, we need to understand.

Kuramo community is a pot-pourri of Lagos indigenes [Onigbon, Igbosere, Apese, Inupa, Itirin etc], Nigerians of other tribes migrating from rural areas, displaced children and migrants from neighbouring countries [Cameroonians, Liberians and Nigeriens]. Homes are built with the most basic of materials wood, bamboo, tarpaulin; materials that can withstand the salty moisture from the sea. The rent goes for about N700 per month for a room occupied by 8-10 people. There is a distinct lack of the most basic of amenities: toilets not even pit latrines, drinkable water and electricity. Piles of decomposing refuse line the water edges while others are scattered on the beach.
But these homes have the best scenery in Lagos. To their right is the endless blue horizon of the Atlantic Ocean. Across the water on the left twinkle lights from sumptuous high rises like Eko Hotel, IBM.
By day, the population engages in petty trading and hairdressing but by night, Kuramo comes alive as the 80-110 bars dotted along the entrance open their doors. Visitors troop in and drinking, commercial sex and illicit drug taking becomes the order of the day.
Females who make up 48% of Kuramo’s population are forced to engage in transactional sex through coercion or to supplement their income. The risk of contracting STIs and HIV are high based on previous experience in this community, which showed the prevalence rates of STI and AIDS as 5 times/50 times higher than the national average. A fear and distrust of orthodox health centres means that they are not exposed to quality medical care, tests, counseling, proper care/education or treatment.
We worked with this community between 2004-2007 in an APIN sponsored study. A health clinic was built which catered to the community’s basic health needs: treatment of common ailments like malaria, diarrhea, upper respiratory disease, immunization of children ANC for pregnant mothers also VCT for HIV/AIDS and treatment of STIs. Our achievements with the community included the formation of a Community Health Association, reduction in crime, decreased hostilities to strangers, increased awareness of HIV/STIs. Our work within the community was cut abruptly during a fracas which lead to the destruction of Kuramo clinic and their homes.
But they have regrouped and come back to rebuild because, Kuramo is HOME to them.
This is what we have to understand and accept to truly transform the beach into a more commercial and aesthetic place. An option for Lagos Govt is to assist this community in building proper low cost accommodations with proper waste disposal facilities. Recruit LAWMA officials among them to clean up the beach front, provide pipe borne water. [The LCDA Chairman built one recently but more is needed]. I believe that If the standard of living of Kuramo’s inhabitants is raised higher, then their attitude to life will change too.
As for us at K’arale [NGO]. We are seeking a partnership with like-minded Sponsors/Donors/Companies to provide a health-post within this community and other hard-to-reach communities. Do write for more info.
Related articles:
Where to go in Lagos
Poverty in Africa

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