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A man in a white coat stands in front of a charcoal grill in a marketplace
Nairobi, Kenya

Fumes of Neglect: Unveiling the True Cost of Air Pollution in Kenya’s Burma Market

In the bustling heart of Kenya's capital city of Nairobi, lies a market covered in a toxic secret of smoke. This cloud of smoke doesn’t come from factories or vehicles, but from the small eateries that rely on charcoal and firewood for cooking.

Burma Market, known for its vibrant trade in meat and chicken, is full of smoke that not only impacts the environment but the very lives and dreams of the population working around the area.

I began a fact-finding mission to establish the true cost of these overlooked emissions. Before I entered the market, the air was decorated with fluttering butterflies, their presence serving as a visible testament to the state of affairs. The inescapable odor emanating from the market welcomed me with a pungent and unique scent as I approached.

I met Kelvin Musembi, a worker at one of these eateries in the market. He has only been on the job for six months, but in that short time, his health has taken a hit. “When I first came here, I didn’t have frequent sneezing and coughing challenges. However, after just one week of working at the eatery, I began experiencing chest problems and persistent headaches,” said Musembi during an interview at the market.

Read the full story.

This story was produced with support from Internews' Earth Journalism Network. It was first published in Talk Africa on November 5, 2023. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Banner image: Fumes from charcoal being used at the Burma Market in Nairobi, Kenya / Credit: Lenah Bosibori.