Nairobi is the capital and largest city in Kenya. "Nairobi" is a name derived from a Maasai phrase meaning "The Place of Cool Waters". 

With a population of more than 3.5 million people, Nairobi sits more than 5,500 feet above sea level and is located in the central highlands. There are usually two rainy seasons per year in Nairobi, and the temperatures are moderate.

Kenya Urban Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion


The Weather

  • Kenya’s urban slums are not “child safe.” Children deal with such environmental dangers such as open sewers, exposed electrical cables, and hazardous garbage. Kenya Boy in Red Jersey
  • Girls in urban slums are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. At their Compassion centers, girls learn practical ways to protect themselves and about their great value to God. Kenya Child Looking Over Bench
  • Urban slums like this one in Nairobi are growing at a dramatic rate as people migrate from the rural areas to the cities in increasing numbers. Kenya Slum with Small Homes
  • To help combat malnutrition, Compassion-assisted children are provided meals whenever they gather for center activities. Kenya Two Boys Eating Food
  • Access to clean drinking water is one of the biggest challenges for children in city slums. Even public taps produce water of questionable quality. Kenya Children at Water Spout
  • In this urban market, a variety of vegetables are sold. However, few families can afford enough food to meet their needs. Kenya Woman Selling Produce

Overview: Urban Kenya

Kenya’s eight provinces have three major cities and several smaller urban centers. The largest is the capital city, Nairobi, whose name is derived from a phrase in the Maasai language meaning “The Place of Cool Waters.” More than 3.5 million people live in Nairobi.

Other major cities in Kenya include Mombasa in the south and Kisumu in the west. Smaller urban centers are Eldoret, Nakuru, Meru and Kakamega. Because of the high rate of people migrating from the rural areas into the cities, Kenya’s urban centers are a melting pot of cultures.

Kenya’s cities are located in a variety of terrains. Mombasa, on the Indian Ocean coast, is only a few feet above sea level and can experience temperatures as high as 91 degrees. Nairobi and Eldoret, on the other hand, sit more than 5,500 feet above sea level in the central highlands. Temperatures in the highlands are moderate, with two rainy seasons per year.

The highest point in Kenya is Mount Kenya, which stands a majestic 17,000 feet, while the Great Rift Valley bisects the country from north to south.


Culture Corner


Try this simple, traditional Kenyan dish.


  • Dried whole-kernel corn*
  • Dried kidney beans, soaked in cold water for a few hours*
  • Salt to taste


In a large pot, combine equal amounts of dried corn and beans (drain and rinse after soaking).

Add enough cold water to cover.

Bring to a boil and cook over high heat for 10 minutes.

Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for two hours or until corn and beans are tender. In the finished dish, most of the water should be absorbed, and the corn and beans should be tender but still intact, not mushy.

Season with salt.

Serve hot — alone as a main dish, or as a side dish.

* After cooking, 1 cup dried equals a 15 oz. can.


Life in Urban Kenya

Kenya’s cities have some of the world’s largest slums. In Nairobi, the capital city, Kibera is the city’s largest, Africa’s second-largest, and the world’s third-largest slum. And it is getting bigger.

The migration rate from Kenya’s countryside to the cities is at an all-time high, as people leave their poor rural homes in search of a better life. Typically settling in slums like Kibera, these newcomers typically find a life of privation much worse than the one they left.

Kenya’s urban slums are mazes of shacks made from scrap materials. There are no public services like sanitation, electricity or water. Sadly, the slums in Kenya are expected to double in the next 15 years, and the lives most adversely affected by their deplorable conditions are children.

Children at Home

The homes in Kenya’s urban slums are crowded, ramshackle structures, built of whatever scrap materials can be found. Homes as small as 100 square feet may accommodate a family of five. These poorly constructed homes provide little protection from the elements. Sometimes they are demolished and swept away during the rainy seasons. There are no basic amenities in the city slums, and they are rife with crime and violence.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Kenya

A vast disparity exists in Kenya’s cities between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” In fact, the richest 20 percent of the population owns approximately 80 percent of the resources. Some live in lavish homes in highly secure suburbs, while the impoverished majority crowds into sprawling slums, living in conditions of great privation and need.

Unemployment is another big problem in Kenyan cities. Each year 600,000 students complete their schooling and enter the job market. Of these, only 10 percent eventually find viable employment. The rest join the ranks of more than 5 million unemployed urban citizens. To survive and provide for their families, many resort to drug trafficking, prostitution, and making or selling illegal alcohol.

In the city slums, no basic services exist for sanitation, electricity or clean water. Raw sewage runs through the narrow alleyways in the slums, where children play. As a result, cholera outbreaks are common, and the many pools of stagnant water are breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Malnutrition and respiratory infections are also commonly suffered by children in Kenya’s urban slums.

Local Needs and Challenges

In Kenya, as throughout the world, children growing up in urban slums are at great risk. The lack of clean water and sanitation leads to such life-threatening illnesses as cholera and typhoid. Poverty and the lack of job opportunities in the slums also mean that parents cannot adequately feed their families, and children typically are chronically malnourished. The crime rate is high, and children often resort to begging and stealing to get a little money. They are in desperate need of the hope provided by Compassion sponsors.


Schools and Education Education in Kenya

In the Kenyan system, primary school lasts eight years, and secondary school is another four years. The government’s recent provision of universal primary education means that more children than ever before are attending school in Kenya. However, this policy also has resulted in overcrowded classrooms (80 children per teacher) and a poor quality of education. In addition, poor parents are unable to pay the required fees for books, supplies and uniforms.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Compassion serves children in Kenya’s urban centers through local church-based child development centers. These centers are havens of love and learning for registered children. Here, children receive nutritious meals, hygiene training, and tutoring to attain standard academic milestones. They are also encouraged to develop their talents and abilities. Most important, children learn about God’s love and the gift of salvation in Christ.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion’s ministry in Kenya is delivered through local churches. Working in the heart of the communities that Compassion wants to reach, local churches know well the people’s needs and the best interventions to provide for their children. In fact, the people that Compassion touches are family members, friends, and acquaintances of the church’s members.

The local church also is a trusted institution in the community. Compassion encourages the registration of children in need, regardless of their religious background, giving every child the equal opportunity to be developed and shown the unconditional love of Jesus. And because of Compassion’s inclusive nature, even non-Christian parents are eager to enroll their children in the church-based program.

How Compassion Works in Kenya Compassion in Kenya

Compassion's work in Kenya began in 1980. Currently, more than 89,800 children participate in 349 child development centers.

Compassion partners with local churches, helping them provide Kenyan children with a long-term program of physical, educational, socio-emotional and spiritual development. Through this partnership between Compassion and local churches, children in need have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all that God has created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

Simon Ihuthia’s job of Partnership Facilitator is an important one – to be a connection between local church partners and Compassion, helping partners serve their communities’ children in need with excellence.

Simon oversees 10 church-based Compassion centers in northern Kenya. He travels to these centers on motorbike. The two-hour journey across rough, dirt roads is tiring, but along the way, he is treated to sights of zebras, giraffes and other wildlife.

Compassion center staff members are always glad to receive a visit from Simon, who treats them with great respect. “Compassion hires qualified staff to work with kids, and they do an incredible job,” he says. “I always keep in mind that we are working together in the same ministry.”


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the health of children who don’t have clean water or adequate sanitation in the urban slums.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children who need steady employment.
  • Pray for the protection and care of children orphaned by AIDS.
  • Pray for the hope of Kenya’s urban poor, that God would restore their shattered dreams.
  • Pray for Compassion center staff members, who diligently strive to meet the needs of the children in their care.