By Mojisola Josephine Kuwadinu:
I watched how the old woman was arranging the bread, from column to column, row to row.
As hungry as I am, I looked at my wrinkled shirt and the pockets of my faded Ankara trousers that have been deprived of a well-defined color, I stuck my hand into the pocket and dusted it off, of course, I knew they were empty.
Many thoughts clustered and beclouded my mind like Balogun market, where peril mothers meet to sell breast milk to their hungry children.
My intestine was now grumbling like a furious cloud that is about to descend on the earth. Where I stood peeping, I began to devise how to grip the bread and run away with it. A second thought came, the place was a market square; “what if I got caught and got punished with jungle justice?”
I looked again and said to myself — “No I must take this bread, after all, man must chop.”
The old woman had almost finished arranging the bread. I moved a bit closer to get a glimpse of what she was doing. Finally, she sat down, waiting for her customers to approach her. I smiled to myself “Alade, you’re born and bred in the city of Makoko, you can do this.”
I watched left and right, to see the road without obstacles, I decided to take Yabaleft, hmmm and that was the dawn of my self-induced insanity. Suddenly I gripped the bread — the biggest one, then I took the baton of a race down madness route.
The old woman shouted immediately…
“OLE! (THIEF) OLE!! (THIEF) OLE!!! (THIEF)
hold him for me.”
Her voice was resounding and penetrating like the Catholic Church bell. You can’t imagine the number of market people that stood up with all sorts of weapons like; sticks, cutlass, tires.
I looked back to see the number of people running after me, my heart cut because I knew I’m not going to escape this time around.
After running for some time, some had lost hope, perhaps they thought I’m a mad fellow, of course, they might be right because I exhibited it that day. I stopped running and stood still at some point, the crowd also stood still, looking at each other, asking: “What was he trying to do?”
“Nkparrraaaaaaaah! Nkpraah!!” The sound of my shabby Ankara tearing filled the air. I tore my clothes into pieces and watched them opened their mouth in amazement. Since I have watched how those madmen displayed their madness skills, so this is the best time for me to exhibit it.
The crowd began to whisper to each other — “He has run mad.”
“Hahaha” I laughed hysterically, while the crowd was clapping and shaking their heads, saying: “God does catch am” I brought out the bread and torn it apart like a hungry mad man.
I sat by the roadside and said to myself:
“IF YOU NO GET MONEY FOR LAGOS, YOU MUST GET MADNESS”
I laughed continuously and hysterically as I devoured the last bread and the crowd went back to their various places.
This is typically how daily living in a ghetto community unfolds.
Apart from the fact that slum dwellers feed on hand to mouth, they are also deprived of lack of access to water protected from outside contamination, lack of access to sanitation facilities that separate human waste from human contact, and lack of adequate living area (more than three people living in one room of four square meters minimum). These conditions also include a lack of housing durability (the structure must be on non-hazardous land and must be able to withstand extremes in climate) and a lack of security of tenure (protection by the state to ensure the unlawful eviction of inhabitants of homes).
These conditions that the dwellers are subjected to have ever affected their personal lives. We see where the living condition in slums affects the health of people mentally and physically. Water contamination cause disease like blood dysentery, diarrhea, malaria, typhoid, jaundice, etc. Children with bloated bellies or famished skeletons, many suffering from polio, are a common sight.
Apart from the health hazards, we also have some of the social effects of living in slums. Socially, slums remain isolated from the rest of the urban society and exhibit pathological social symptoms like drug abuse, alcoholism, crime, vandalism, and other deviant behavior. The lack of integration of slum inhabitants into urban life reflects both, the lack of ability and cultural barriers. Like the instance above, Alade’s living conditions eventually prompted him to resort to crime just to relieve himself of the hunger pangs he felt.
What about the psychological effects?
People who have lived in slums are three times as likely to have mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, compared to their peers who haven’t been exposed to living in the slums.