On March 12th 2020, the first case of Covid19 was reported in Kenya, before that most residents in Kenya knew that Covid19 was a “western” problem. Two days later, five more cases of the virus were reported, then the government started putting some measures to contain the virus. In a community like Kibera, that proved difficult.
The first case of coronavirus was reported in Kibera slum in May 2020. In Kibera slum, most residents lack access to clean water and sanitation facilities. The residents also do not have access to quality health care system and in addition, they also depend mainly on domestic and casual work to earn a living.
Judith is a mother of seven children who lives in Soweto village in Kibera. She has one child living with severe epilepsy. She cleans houses and sometimes washes clothes for people to earn a living and take care of her children. The journey has been difficult for her and her son. “Wilson’s condition is a tough one. Sometimes I cannot take part in casual jobs because I have to look after him especially if he had convulsed the previous night. He convulses violently which throws him to anything around and causes injury to his body. I have to be around to get hold of him if I earn any money I will use all of it in treating the wounds he got during convulsion. When schools are ongoing its better since he is under care so I can go to work. Sometimes he convulses throughout the night which keeps the family awake all night. This causes lack of sleep for the family members until the following day and caring for him as well as the other children becomes a challenge.” Judith narrates during our conversation with her in her home in Soweto.
The fact that Judith’s husband abandoned them when Wilson was a baby only worsens the situation. Judith is the bread winner of the family. She shares how at some point even contemplated suicide but opted out of it as she has children looking up to her and they would suffer even more in her absence. This situation is currently worse for Judith and her children. She was laid off work in April because of Covid19, all schools were also closed which means that Wilson is not able to get professional help. Currently, because of the pandemic, she has to depend on well-wishers to get food and pay rent. Judith is also suffering from mental health and physical disability which makes her not to walk for too long.
Millicent is also a mother of six children who live in Gatwekera village in Kibera. Three out of the seven children are living with various forms of disability. Recently one managed to recover fully and started his education while the others are still unable to properly communicate. One communicates through actions such as carrying a plate and a spoon to say he is hungry or holding a tissue paper to inform his mum that he needs to use the washroom whereas the other one who is 16 years old girl is mentally challenged which affects her speech. During our conversation at her home, Millicent shared how the girl was raped by a known person in the community who took advantage of her mental state. The person later ran off and has never been seen. Millicent is currently not able to go to work because her employer fears that she might infect them with the virus. Millicent was forced to take unpaid leave after numerous cases of Covid19 were reported in Kenya.
Millicent and Judith are just examples of people in my community who have been directly affected by Covid19. The situation might get worse for many people since over 200 covid19 cases have been confirmed in Kibera slum. The resilience of these two women has encouraged me to continue ensuring that I offer them support where I can.