Hungry children in a Nigerian slum, but life is 'not too bad'; LAGOS DAYS

You can catch a glimpse of the slums from the motorways that bisect Lagos: clustered at the edge of a lagoon or spreading like a stain over waste ground, thousands of shacks with rusty roofs. But you do not really know what the slums are like until you are among the houses, a Nigerian friend said as we drove through town.

I was invited to Amukoko by Sister Patricia Hoey, a petite Irish missionary nun who has been working in Nigeria for three decades. For the past few years she has been running a health clinic in the heart of Amukoko, which is built on reclaimed marshland.

An estimated one million people live in Amukoko. They are among the poorest in Lagos, but are not the worst off: they have homes, some have jobs, they even have a couple of broken-down schools.

When it rains, the canals and open drains overflow. The smell of sewage around the Medical Missionaries of Mary compound was strong but the nuns said they only noticed it when it got really hot. ''These people wouldn't live here if they had anywhere else to go,'' said Sister Patricia. "They come from every state in Nigeria and every country in West Africa. There's not much of what you'd call 'social cohesion'. They're drawn by the prospect of work and more are coming all the time."

It would make more sense if I were to meet some of the residents, she suggested. Yemi Akintimehin, a 33-year-old health worker who grew up here, would take me along on one of her home visits to a slum where people walked in mud, the roads were strewn with refuse and there were waist- high piles of rubbish.

Josephine Nwokocha, the object of the visit, lives in a room with her husband and six children. Under the same roof, on either side of a dank corridor which runs the length of a typical single-storey boarding house, are 21 other families. They share a single latrine. But the Nwokochas consider themselves lucky: some families live a dozen to a small room.

''Things aren't too bad because my husband has a job with a shipping company," said Mrs Nwokocha. "I take the kids to the nuns every morning for a meal. We eat again in the evening when my husband comes home."

Here is how their money works out: Mr Nwokocha earns 2,000 naira a month (pounds 16) Rent is 500 naira a month. So there is 1,500 naira for food, transport, medicines and other necessities. Mrs Nwokocha says she is happier here than in her village in south-east Nigeria.

All of her children are under six. She has a set of twins. I learnt later that she probably had to leave her village as twins are considered evil, unnatural, and their mothers are often cast out for witchcraft.

"This child", said Ms Akintimehin, pointing to the baby at Mrs Nwokocha's breast, "is not well and his legs are too thin to support him. In fact, all these kids are malnourished.'' The situation should improve, however, when Mrs Nwokocha gets the market stall she has long coveted. She has been accepted into a scheme run by the nuns to set up women in petty trading: old clothes, bottles or simple foodstuffs. She will have to pay rent for her pitch.

We make our way through the smoke-filled corridor - some families are cooking on charcoal stoves - and into the mire of the street. Ms Akintimehin points out the local sights: a school with no windows and 9,000 pupils and, next door, the Sambot Hotel, which is a brothel.

"Like everything else here, sex is a commodity", said Sister Patricia."There's lots of prostitution. Sometimes you couldn't call it that. They sell their bodies to get kids through school."

The nuns - two Nigerian and two Irish - run a leadership course which deals with everything from inter-personal to community relations. They try to encourage basic social analysis: why are the streets so filthy, how come no one makes an effort to clean them, why is there no civic spirit?

Does it improve things? Not much, they reply with a smile ... not much.

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence