COVID-19: Kenyan communities torn between staying safe and staying alive

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A group of women and children sits pensively outside their shanties in the heart of Kibra slums.

They seem lost in thoughts and almost helpless. Words of despair and fear of the unknown written all over their faces.

“I have not had food for two days now and I do not know when I will have the next meal. I am yet to pay this month’s rent as well,” Veronica Wambua cries during an interview.

According to her, the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions issued by the government since the announcement of the first case in Kenya have rendered many of them jobless.

“We are people who depend on menial jobs like washing clothes for the middle class to feed our families. So when the government gave the stay at home restriction, most of us were rendered jobless,” narrates Wambua.

Wambua says that their clients no longer want to invite them into their homes over the fear that they might bring COVID-19 disease into their homes.

Ever since Kenya reported the first case of the disease in the country, the government has announced a raft of measures in a bid to stem the spread of the disease.

From the 7pm to 5am curfew to the ban of movement in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi counties, the government hopes to flatten the COVID -19 curve.

Kenya has so far confirmed 262 cases, 12 deaths and 60 COVID-19 recoveries.

But as the rest of the country stays at home keep safe from Coronavirus, the likes of Wambua who live in the slums are struggling between staying at home and dying of hunger or continuing with their daily hustles in search for food and risk getting infected with the deadly disease.

A food and basic household stuff distribution exercise last week in Kibra slums turned into a disaster after several people got injured in a stampede.

The long queues that did not observe the one meter social distancing rules perhaps painted a picture of what the Kibra residents would rather not die of.

Dorris Kizito’s situation is no different from Wambua’s, she is only hoping that a complete lockdown does not occur in Nairobi.

“We are almost sleeping hungry because of the curfew and the stay at home orders, what do you think will happen if they implement a lock down?” She poses.

Ministry of Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has in several occasions warned Kenyans against behaving normally in the wake of the pandemic.

“If we treat this disease as normal, it will treat us abnormally,” Kagwe once stated in a press briefing.
The government explains that the imposed curfew is in a bid to help maintain social distancing since it is at night that people tend to socialise a lot.

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