Photos: UNICEF distributes soap and hand washing messages in Kibera
Families living in informal settlements like Kibera are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19.
Kibera is the largest urban slum, or informal settlement, in Africa. It is home to up to a million people (estimates vary), many of them living on less than a dollar a day. Unemployment is high and there is a lack of basic services, including running water and health care. People live in close proximity in makeshift homes made from wood and corrugated iron. Children walk along earth tracks strewn with rubbish.
In Kenya, the COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating existing vulnerabilities across the country, particularly for the urban poor. Families living in informal settlements like Kibera are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to inadequate access to water and sanitation services and cramped living conditions. Many parents or caregivers in these areas work in the informal economy and are not able to stay at home without losing their livelihoods.
On 3 April, as part of UNICEF Kenya’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, water, sanitation and hygiene supplies were delivered to Kibera. These included 26,000 bars of soap for vulnerable families and 100 knapsack sprayers to assist Nairobi City Government in disinfecting marketplaces and other public spaces. UNICEF is also training community health volunteers to deliver behaviour change messages, providing them with information materials such as posters and flyers, and public address systems mounted on vehicles to enable them to broadcast throughout the settlements.
UNICEF is the leading voice for children affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. We are supporting the Government as part of the UN’s COVID-19 response in Kenya. In addition to providing water sanitation and hygiene supplies, we are working with partners to help keep essential health services going, provide continued learning for children, and intensifying efforts to keep children safe. And we’re providing important information for parents on the free online platform Internet of Good Things.
At Nairobi City Hall, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Wilson Kibii says that UNICEF’s support has been essential to enabling the local government to respond quickly to COVID-19. “Our partnership with UNICEF is so important because we cannot manage on our own,” he comments. “There are so many commodities required, so many personnel. We very much appreciate UNICEF. They were actually the first ones to provide supplies to Nairobi City County.”
By Andrew Brown, UNICEF Kenya, and Michael Ilako