In Africa’s Largest ‘slum,’ a Grassroots Movement is Spearheading the Fight against Coronavirus.

In Africa's Largest 'slum,' a Grassroots Movement is Spearheading the Fight against Coronavirus.

The Kibera Slum

Kibera settlement is located four miles to the southwest of Nairobi center and is the largest urban slum in Africa. The area comprises about 200 households, which are densely populated. About 60% which is 4.4 million of Nairobi’s population comes from the slums. The slum occupies about 6% of the city’s total land. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, residents across the globe including Kibera are engaging in measures to help control the contagion.

Similarly, Scientists, World Health Organizations and leaders have voiced out their opinions such that in case of an outbreak in the slums, there will be irreversible damage. Especially since the area houses 43% of the country’s population.

SHOFCO spearheading the fight against corona in Kibera.

A homegrown grassroots movement, SHOFCO is endorsing for good hygiene and sanitation in Kibera through creating awareness. The organization works together with the ministry of health, walking door to door and educating the slum residents. The organization has established stations with clean water tanks, urging the people to wash their hands. It is also offering screening tests to the people. They are pledging with the government to provide financial support and interventions to help these poor communities.

Coronavirus is an ‘equalizer’.

Kennedy Odede, the founder of SHOFCO, told CNBC that coronavirus is an equalizer. Because of the corona, the government has to acknowledge that slums which they ignored. Why? This is because most of the household workforce i.e. cooks, nannies, and watchmen all come from the slums.

Why are the measures against corona a challenge in Kibera?

Odede says adopting the COVID-19 measures is a big challenge in the slum. The slums are areas of poor sanitation and inadequate water. The residents are exposed to harsh living conditions. For instance, the average slum house measures 12ft by 12 ft, constructed with corrugated iron sheets and mud or dirt. Its normal houses 8 to 10 people.

Hence social distancing becomes a challenge. Moreover, the slums are prone to malaria, and TB attacks. Therefore, of the virus crosses over to the slums, it will be a real pandemic.

Lack of Information.

Odede explains that most of the residents from the slum initially considered the virus less disastrous. Especially since they had witnessed no form of devastation or death. He urges the government to provide people with clean water, and sanitation measures.

The only way to defeat the virus is by controlling its spread. He hopes the government will acknowledge reinstating more effective precautionary measures other than police and guns.

Curfew and Lockdown.

The government of Kenya has reinstated dusk to dawn curfew, which begins at 7:00 pm and ends at 5:00 am. This measure is to curtail the virus from spreading, especially since they have confirmed 142 cases.

Nonetheless, actions of police brutality have drawn the attention of right groups such as Amnesty. Ie the assassination of a 13-year-old boy in cold blood on the first week of the curfew.

Why Odede Thinks the Curfew is Bias.

Odede says the curfew was untimely and a system against poor communities. He told CNBC that in areas like Kibera, economic activities are at a peak at dusk. Hence the residents of Kibera won’t stop trading despite the curfew, for they need to earn a living. They have also reported a shortage of public means past curfew time.

He says as much as the president might think of reinstating a lockdown, they should supply areas in the slums with adequate relief. For if not, there will be an uprising resulting in violence.

Calls for unity in East Africa.

Kennedy condemned the Tanzanian president for not honoring the closure of churches. He calls for the east African presidents to unite and gang up against Magufuli. For COVID-19 isn’t a joke, to control its spread requires coordination from all governments.



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