The impact of Covid-19 in Kenya
As of September 2020, there have been 642 recorded deaths due to Coronavirus in Kenya. The World Health Organisation has warned that the world is still at the ‘beginning of this pandemic’. The number of recorded deaths appear to be far lower than the UK (though this could be due to poor testing and false reports). However, the real impact on Kenya is the huge knock on effects of a global pandemic.
Although, the deaths resulting from Covid-19, the deaths due to knock-on effects from Covid-19 are immeasurable, and they will only increase as more people are being made homeless and starving.
Prior to Covid there was 60-75% formal unemployment rate in Kenya, a huge majority of the population relied on income from informal jobs. Following enforced lockdown and curfews more people than ever have no work. Most individuals work in the informal sector and do manual labour to make a living.
The effects of unemployment are trickling down. For instance, those who cook food have no one to sell it to because offices and schools are closed.
Safety measures means that people are wary of buying street food and are staying home - meaning they no longer hire people to help around their homes or on farms.
The loss of income by more unemployment has meant that thousands of people are being evicted from their houses as they are unable to pay rent.
There have also been many flash floods and mud slides in the last few months destroying homes (traditional mud huts) leading to more homelessness.
Many people in Kenya live with many family members in small houses. As people are being made homeless they are forced to live on the streets or move in with friends and family, making houses even more crowded. This then makes social distancing even harder and increases the risk of spreading coronavirus.
The Kenyan health care system, which was already strained, is now facing more pressure as more people test positive, including doctors.
The doctor patient ration is 1:15,000, and access to health care institutions is a precious privilege that few people can afford.
People are also wary of being diagnosed with Coronavirus by doctors as they are then sent to quarantine centres. Many people are rather choosing to stay home and praying they will recover.
Many people struggle daily to get a single glass of clean water. Buying masks, hand sanitizers or gloves is not a priority.
Picture courtesy of Africanews
Picture courtesy of BBC
Many people have also found themselves shunned, ostracized and harassed over covid-19 fears. Families and individuals have been stigmatised over rumours as well as true cases. In some extreme cases, those who have been suspected in remote areas cannot eat because the shops close when they see them or members of their family.
More people than ever cannot afford their rent as the price of fresh food has increased. In many parts of Kenya (not Eldoret) swarms of locusts have destroyed harvests meaning the price of fresh food has increased as supply decreases.
Picture by Rash
How are we supporting the community
At Open Arms we are passionate about giving people a 'hand up’ not just a ‘hand out’, meaning we focus on building relationships and supporting individuals to identify and tackle the root cause of their issues. However, we also recognise that in some cases emergency care is needed. For instancing, taking in a child who has been abandoned or neglected or a family has no food or money to provide for their children.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 we have been planning how we can adjust the work we are doing to help the most people. We are currently working on a new programme in the community to help families become more self-sufficient by delivering training, resources and educating them on making the most of their assets. We believe that this new programme is going to help many families, but in the mean time there are people starving that need immediate help.
Thousands of people in Eldoret don't have access to clean water. They are either forced to drink dirty water, or save up to buy clean water. Many people only have a clean water supply occasionally.
We have a tap outside the Village that anyone is free to use. By have access to clean water, health rates improve drastically.
We are also providing hand washing stations so everyone can stay clean and healthy and reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Do to the knock-on effects of the pandemic many families are unable to buy the essentials to feed their family. We are giving care packages to families most in need. This contains enough food for the family for a month. It contains food such as rice, beans, eggs, and cooking fat. It also contains sanitary items. See below for a response from a previous community care package programme.
Caring for the Village
We still have over 150 children living in the Village, many of them have complex health needs and therefore have compromised immune systems. We have placed the Village in lockdown, limiting interactions to only necessary staff. All of the children remain healthy. The Kenyan government has closed all schools so we are continuing to educate our children through home schooling,
Many people are struggling to afford food at the moment. At the Village there are normally several staff who manage the farm and grow a variety of crops, due to the lockdown of the Village we have had to limit the number of farm staff to only the necessary. The families in the Village have stepped up and are growing maize (fast growing and popular food) so it can be used to feed families in the Village and those in the community.
A month ago we received a donation which allowed us to give food parcels to the neediest in the community. Pastor Okeyo recently wrote to Rachel (Open Arms Director) to share the impact he had seen it have, and share some of the stories of hope and extraordinary generosity that emerged. The pastor told us of Johnson’s story:
‘Johnson is the sole carer for his children. Each day, he sets out to find manual work and hopefully earn enough money to buy food for his children. But since the outbreak of COVID-19, he has had a hard time finding any work.
A month ago, Johnson started his morning as usual. He met up with his friend and they shared a cup of black tea for breakfast. They walked for miles up the dirt path, trying to find work. Unfortunately, there was no work to be found that day. They went home, tired and hungry, knowing they would go to bed without food, an event that has becoming a trend over the past three months.
Then, his phone rang. He was told to go to the Open Arms Village the next day with two bags that he could use to carry maize (corn) and beans. Overcome with emotion from hearing the news, Johnson said that he suddenly wasn’t hungry anymore - "It was as though the food was already in my stomach." Johnson woke up early and walked to the Open Arms Village to receive the gift. However, Johnson did not bring two bags; he brought four. He poured some maize and beans into the extra bags and then took them to his friend.
He said “I could not believe that someone somewhere thought of helping me. Just like they had thought of me at one of my lowest moments, I also remembered to share the food with my friend. I am their neighbour and I am able to see how much suffering their children go through, even though my children and I have gone hungry at times, I have learned to share the blessings that God puts in my hands with others.” '
Pastor Okeyo told us - “The food donation came at a time when most families were experiencing hunger, fear and uncertainty because of Covid-19. I heard all of them give thanks to the Lord for a blessing that had far surpassed their expectation."