Zombies of Nairobi: Street Youth Addicted to Inhalants

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A population of young people in Kenya, known as the “Zombies of Nairobi,” wander the streets in a daze, seemingly half alive. The campsites where they live are filled with mounds of garbage and create a desolate and grotesque environment. Deprived of even the most basic necessities, such as food, water, and shelter, these children suffer daily.

Tragically, the cause of their zombie-like state is due to the glue-sniffing epidemic that has gripped Nairobi’s street youth population. The side effects of inhaling dangerous substances can lead to a loss of concentration, lack of coordination, hallucinations, and even aggression towards others.

Published in 2016

Viewing Time: 20 minutes


“This is one of Nairobi’s many camp sites – this place is surreal. If you were here now, you would feel the smell of shit and trash piled up throughout the years. Our journey into the city of zombies starts here. The desperate who live in this place obsessively inhale the fumes of a yellow liquid that they carry around everywhere. They’re intoxicated, they’re hungry.

“Many of them are so dazed that they experience brain blackouts, passing out for a few minutes. The solvents inside the glue can cause effects similar to a hangover – it’s a depressant substance that can cause loss of concentration and lack of coordination, but it can also induce hallucinations and transform you into a very hostile and very aggressive person.”

Street youth inhaling substances out of bottles on the streets of Nairobi, from Zombies of Nairobi documentary

“We are entering a city within a city – it’s not a physical place, it has no borders, it’s rather an elucidation inhabited by tens of thousands of kids. The dark obscure and brutal place hidden inside many plastic bottles. If you open them and sniff what’s inside, you’ll wake up in a world of zombies.”

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