Flattening The Covid 19 Curve Not A Dream Come True In Mukuru Kwa Njenga

By Juliah Atieno

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most crucial health calamity of the century and the greatest challenge that has affected the humankind of in recent times. This pandemic is severely disrupting the global economy and almost all nations are struggling to slow down its transmission.

Kenya, one of the most affected countries in Africa has at least 47 thousand infections and at least 1000 fatalities with a rapid increase in the number of infections. The government, through the Ministry of Health, has put in place stringent measures to help contain the spread of this disease. It is now upon Kenyans to take up the responsibility mitigate spread and transmission.

In Mukuru, one of the most highly populated informal settlement within the Nairobi Metropolis, most of the residents are unbothered by the worsening COVID 19 situation in the country and are reluctant to follow the safety measures in place.  The very nature of this settlement makes it impossible to practice some of these measures such as social distancing and hand washing due to overcrowding and water shortage.

Since the first case was confirmed in Kenya, the government encouraged people to work from home in order to enhance social distancing, but this in itself is even more of a nightmare here, since most of people engage in manual jobs such as casual labor and security. This leaves them with no option but to go to work physically because their services cannot be rendered from the comfort of their homes. They would therefore prefer to go to work and have something on their tables rather than die hungry in the fear of COVID 19 since the financial aid from the government does not rich the population and even if it is given, is usually inadequate to sustain the few lucky beneficiaries.

Chang’aa (local brew) clubs and Muguka (khat) joints are operational till late in the night irrespective of the curfew hours. Large numbers of people gather in these joints to enjoy life without considering the social distancing rule and others are even seen mingling without face masks, which are no longer seen to be of any use, and are only worn to avoid run-ins with police.

Testing and treating in private hospitals is expensive therefore most citizens are forced to rely on public health facilities which are ineffective. Being an informal settlement means this slum does not enjoy full recognition by the government and even the essential services are not properly established. Frequent tests are not done here and the only public facility here, Mukuru Heath Centre, is not equipped to handle COVID 19 patients.

Home based care with the help of community health volunteers, introduced by the Ministry of Health after COVID 19 centers were congested has proved futile here. A single room made of iron tins in most cases here houses all the family members and due to the high infectious nature of the disease, these rooms do not match the standards of home based care unit as per the ministry of health protocols. The Community Health workers, though well conversant and able to handle these patients are not provided with the protective gear to handle this situation.

With water being the most essential item especially during this time where Ministry of Health advises on regular hand washing and sanitization, the situation here has worsened. With the prevailing poverty and loss of jobs, most of the residents here cannot afford to buy hand sanitizers therefore the only other remedy, hand washing, has become a nightmare due to prevailing water shortage here.




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