Kangemi Slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya is home to more than 100,000 people, who live in makeshift dwellings of cardboard, tin or plastic, with five or six people to a room. The slum is situated in a small valley with steep slopes rolling down to the Nairobi River. Due to a lack of sewers or clean water and overcrowding, disease spreads easily. There is no refuse collection so burning piles of rubbish cause smog and air pollution.
The most pressing issue for people in Kangemi is the availability of food. Most people there live below the poverty line and depend on informal trading to earn money. Restrictions due to Covid-19 measures prevent the usual trading from taking place, leaving households with no way of feeding themselves.
St Joseph the Worker is a Catholic Parish in Kangemi of more than 20,000 people that distributes necessities to people most in need, such as widows and single mothers.
"The Parish continues to be a beacon of hope to many slum dwellers regardless of their religion by distributing such basic necessities of life as many people can no longer go to work due to the on-going lockdown; for in such places, people are more worried about food than the Coronavirus, which puts them at high risk of infection once basic measures of prevention are not followed" says Allan Ggita SJ, Director for Development, Jesuits Eastern Africa.
Irish Jesuit Missions and Misean Cara are supporting the Parish to help to protect Kangemi residents from both Covid-19 and from hunger and loss of livelihoods.
Food essentials including maize and wheat flour, cooking oil, and pulses such as beans and peas will be distributed to people in the parish to help them to survive the lockdown period and maintain basic nourishment. Once these needs have been taken care of, then people can begin to focus on protecting themselves from infection.
Hygiene essentials will also be provided for inhabitants of Kangemi. Because there is no running water in Kangemi, funding will enable the installation of water tanks and hands-free washing stations and soap so that people can keep their hands clean. To help prevent the spread of the virus through air droplets, families will be provided with reusable masks for their protection.
It is also vital to protect the health of community workers as they distribute food and other necessities throughout Kangemi, so they will be provided with masks, gloves and sanitisers.
Many families will be unable to pay rent due to the loss of income they face. They will be provided with subsidies to enable them to remain in their housing while the restrictions are in place, giving them the chance to go back to earning a living once the measures are lifted.
Funding will help to ease the burden of the challenges people in Kangemi face during the Covid-19 pandemic, but ultimately it will be the solidarity throughout the parish and throughout their community that will enable them to weather this storm.