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‘No work, no food’: For Kibera dwellers, quarantine not an option

Nairobi, Kenya – Take a stroll down Kibera avenue and at first glance you would not realise that the world is in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic. Vendors are still selling vegetables and motorbike drivers continue to congregate at intersections, waiting for customers. Yet, at closer inspection, it is obvious that things have slowed…

‘No work, no food’: For Kibera dwellers, quarantine not an option

Nairobi, Kenya – Take a stroll down Kibera avenue and at first glance you would not realise that the world is in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic. Vendors are still selling vegetables and motorbike drivers continue to congregate at intersections, waiting for customers.
Yet, at closer inspection, it is obvious that things have slowed down. Increasing numbers of roadside stands are empty and the main thoroughfare of the largest informal settlement in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is less crowded than usual.
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Rhoda Mukii, a roadside produce vendor in Kibera, voices her frustration at how quickly things have changed for her business.
“Now people are not going to work and I’m not earning as much as before. We need the government to work faster to fix this issue.”
Drastic measures

The new coronavirus is still a relatively recent arrival in Kenya, with seven cases confirmed in one week.
However, the government has already taken a series of strict measures, including closing schools, banning major public events and barring entry to the country to everyone except citizens, in an attempt to curb the outbreak, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Following the official announcement of the drastic measures by President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 15, Kenyans have begun to take the virus seriously. Hand washing is being carried out more frequently and the government is reducing the cost of water for those who cannot afford it.
However, despite calls for social distancing and quarantining, residents of poorer areas of the city continue to go outside, interacting with others and working to support their families.
Many residents of Kibera, home to hundreds of thousands of people, are aware of the risks coronavirus poses, especially in a crowded and underserved neighbourhood such as their own, which could be devastated should the outbreak sweep through and overwhelm already strained healthcare and social safety nets.

Yohana Ondieki, or Santos, standing at the Kibera Seven Kids School which he runs [Duncan Moore/Al Jazeera]

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