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.

Andrew Brown and Michael Ilako
Children practicing hand washing
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
20 April 2020

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. 

A consignment of the soap
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
A consignment of the soap and knapsack sprayers supplied by UNICEF, ready to be dispatched from Nairobi City Government headquarters at City Hall.
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer at Nairobi City Government, Wilson Kibii
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer at Nairobi City Government, Wilson Kibii, coordinates the release of the first consignment of UNICEF-supplied soap and knapsack sprayers from City Hall to informal settlements and market places.
A Community Health Volunteer helps to load trucks
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
Community Health Volunteers help to load trucks with boxes of soap to be transported to various informal settlements in Nairobi.
Millicent Achieng
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
Millicent Achieng, a Community Health Volunteer in Kibera informal settlement, receives a box of soap as part of supplies from UNICEF for use in the community. This photo was taken before the wearing of masks became compulsory in public places.
 CHV's with knapsack sprayers to fumigate the New Kenyatta Market
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
Community Health Volunteers ready themselves at City Hall with personal protective gear and knapsack sprayers to fumigate the New Kenyatta Market in Kibera informal settlement, Nairobi.
 Community Health Volunteers walk to a water station
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
Violet Chemesunde (right) leads fellow Community Health Volunteers to a water station in Kichinjio village, Kibera. In addition to distributing bars of soap, the volunteers are teaching members of the community how to wash their hands effectively with soap and running water.
Millicent demonstrates social distance to children
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
At a water station in Kichinjio village, Kibera, Millicent demonstrates social distance to children by spreading her arms out. She encourages the children to keep a 1-2 metre distance from other people when in public, as a way of preventing the spread of COVID-19. This is usually possible outdoors in Kibera, if not indoors.
Millicent shows children how to wash their hands properly
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
Millicent shows children how to wash their hands properly with soap and running water for 20 seconds. Hand washing is one of the most important steps to stop the spread of COVID-19.
A young boy follows Millicent’s instructions keenly at a water station
UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
A young boy follows Millicent’s instructions keenly at a water station in Kibera, as he is shown how to wash hands properly to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (also see top photo).

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

UNICEFKenya/2020/Michael Ilako
On 3 April, UNICEF Kenya delivered water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to the informal settlement of Kibera, as part of the UN’s COVID-19 pandemic response. We are also training community health volunteers to deliver behaviour change messages about hand washing and social distancing to communities. #komeshacorona