Property rights, public health, and planning for informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya

Smith Ouma, Jason Corburn, Jane Weru

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Kenyan legal framework accords robust safeguards to private property rights. It is only in few cases that these rights may be limited. In Kenya, many informal settlements are on private land, which can limit the ability of residents to access life-saving basic services. Here, we explore how a public health emergency in Mukuru, one of Nairobi’s largest informal settlements, gave rise to a redefinition of private property, security of tenure and delivery of water and sanitation. We suggest that “everyday emergency” of public health threats in informal settlements offers an opportunity to ensure that property and planning norms deliver rights to both secure tenure and human health. Ultimately, we explore the place of public health in (re)negotiating for land rights in Nairobi, particularly to ensure that the urban poor can express their rights to health and well-being and assess what this portends for planners in their quest to upgrade informal settlements.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Urban Affairs
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2022


  • Mukuru
  • Nairobi
  • land tenure
  • public health

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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