child in kenya

School of Journalism

January 6, 2012

Whitney Riggs, a master’s student at the IU School of Journalism, spent part of last year in Kenya reporting on children living in poverty and the health concerns they face. She was one of dozen students from the school who traveled to Kenya as part of Professor Jim Kelly’s course, J460 Reporting on HIV/AIDS in Africa. Working alongside Moi University students to create multimedia news projects, Riggs and her fellow students reported on the African continent’s continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Riggs was especially struck by the children of Eldoret and their experiences living in poverty. In one of her posts, she wrote:

Looking out at the land, there are hundreds of tents set up side by side in parallel lines.  Adults tend the small gardens and farmlands surrounding the outskirts of the camp.  Scrawny chickens dart in and out of the tents, eating any remnants of food they can find.  Children with dirty cheeks who have just learned to walk roam around without shoes.  There are few or no toys.  One boy who looks about the age of eight sits against the outside of a tent plucking grass.

For many children in Kenya, extreme poverty is the norm.  Parents cannot afford basic needs and families often share households.  According to the CIA World Fact book, in 2000, 50 percent of Kenyans were living in poverty.  With little or no income, children raised in poverty-stricken areas risk hunger, illness and a future without education.

The IDP camps and the slums of Eldoret are two places where child poverty most prevalent.  Children who haven’t bathed in days wear the only T-shirt they own.  Small rations of food are shared with siblings, leaving empty stomachs after meals.  Medicines and vaccines are too expensive to buy.  With no one to turn to, children who grow up in poverty suffer.

Kelly says a major objective for the course and Kenya experience is to inform and improve future reporting on the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic and its impact. “For the people living in the slums and the IDP [Internally Displaced People] camps, I’d like to think that there is still hope out there for them to have better lives,” Riggs says.

Riggs and the other students involved in the project wrote and published dozens of stories photographs, articles, and blog posts at

Leave a Comment