Unlikely Friends in Africa’s Biggest Slum

By Natalie Walters

Chemi Chemi ya Uzima Clinic, run by Nairobi Baptist Church, serves residents of Kibera - one of Africa's largest slum settlements. Chemi Chemi ya Uzima means "springs of life."

There’s something amazing about watching people who society assumes should be enemies work together as friends and allies instead.

Here in Kibera, often said to be the largest slum in Africa, the unlikely friends are the Christians that run the mission clinic Chemi Chemi ya Uzima and the Muslims who make up the elder council that runs the neighborhood.

“The Muslims accept us and are willing to help whenever we call on them,” said Mellen, who came to Chemi Chemi after attending Nairobi Baptist Church, which runs the clinic.

The most obvious example of this growing relationship between the two groups came after a contentious national election in 2017. With this part of Kibera being majority Muslim, Chemi Chemi workers feared for their safety and closed for a week. But at the time, a group of Muslims came by to offer a few words.

“You’re ok,” they told the Chemi Chemi group. “You are our own. Nothing will happen to you. We will protect you.”

At one point during the election upheaval, Mellen remembers being personally protected when she was in trouble.

“Oh we know her, and she’s our doctor,” they said when another group was suspicious of her.

Mellen believes the clinic’s strong reputation and credibility are why they’ve been accepted in Kibera. She says the employees at Chemi Chemi have a heart to serve and have never mistreated a patient.

As an outreach clinic, Chemi Chemi can’t offer competitive salaries so its employees are there because they want to help the population of Kibera. In fact, right now they sell drugs at cost, so they don’t make money off of them. And like many other clinics we’ve introduced you to, many of their patients can’t pay.

Chemi Chemi is one of the incredible clinic teams that Banda Health gets to work with, clinics serving some very-low-income communities across Kenya. Banda uses IT solutions to help them maximize the limited resources they have so that they can focus on what they’re good at, reaching out to and caring for patients.

Mellen works as an administrator at Chemi Chemi.
David, a nurse, is currently the only clinician at Chemi Chemi. He sees and treats all the patients who visit the clinic.
Martha is a lab tech at Chemi Chemi.
Thomas of Banda and David of Chemi Chemi posing for a quick shot before David had to rush back inside to a long line of waiting patients.


Unlikely friends. An unlikely place to want to work as a nurse. Does access to healthcare for the poor in places like Kibera sound unlikely? Sure. At Banda Health, we see better than most just how unlikely our dream might be. But we also we also see firsthand the power of designing big ideas one step at a time, tailoring solutions precisely to problems piece by piece. We’ve already seen Banda save these clinics time and money, and we’re working hard to do more for them and to expand to new clinics.

Unlikely things happen every single day. Are you with us?

Natalie Walters

Natalie Walters

A journalist from New York, Natalie is helping write stories about the clinics using Banda Go.