Friday, February 15, 2013

Scavenging to earn ones daily bread

Reposting this magnificent photo from May 2012 because it won a World Press photojournalist award:

While the IMF gloats over all the foreign investment in Kenya--with new malls, KFCs, Apple stores, factories--every day 6,000 of over 1 million slum dwellers living in Dandora, a suburb of Nairobi (East Africa’s most populous city) start at 5 am scavenging through the only municipal dump for anything that can be sold for recycling. A day’s back-breaking labor will earn each USD $2.50 a day. Waste management plans are excluded in IMF plundering programs & dumpsites have become a way for millions of people around the world to survive by doing the dirty work for recycling companies.  Pickers spend all day bent over on their knees sorting through metal, rubber, food garbage, plastics, meat bones, electronics--with pigs, dogs, & birds competing side by side with the human scavengers.
The place is an environmental hell hole; a 2007 UN study found soil samples contain dangerous levels of lead. Hundreds of kids living near the dump have high concentrations of lead in their blood & suffer from respiratory problems like asthma. The air is putrid from the overwhelming stench of the rotting debris of 4 million people & biogas steam & smoke emitted from burning chemicals & plastics.

The remarkable moment captured in this photo is of a woman scavenger stopping to read a book she came across in the stinking debris. She told the reporter she likes to read & in desperation even reads industrial parts catalogs. She says it gives her something else to do beside picking trash. In a humane world, she might well have been a scholar, a scientist, a poet. Like most poor people, she probably has no sense of her potential & certainly no possibility of realizing it under this system. Who knows what beauty she would have created were she not compelled to pick through the stinking decay of a rotten system!?  (Photo by Micah Albert/Pulitzer Center)

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