Having access to housing, basic sanitation and clean water are simple and basic needs. The outbreak of Coronavirus has been a critical reminder of their utmost importance and of the injustice in access to those needs in the world around us.
Throughout this global pandemic, governments are relying on self-isolating and social distances policies to slow the spread of the virus. But for or the 1.8 billion people around the world who are homeless or live in inadequate shelter, “staying at home” is simply not possible. In fact, living conditions in poor or inadequate housing actually create a higher risk of infection whether from overcrowding or lack of proper sanitation that makes hand-washing difficult.
According to the United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, it is now clear that “housing is both prevention and cure – and a matter of life and death – in the face of Coronavirus”.
Habitat for Humanity has been delivering vital housing and sanitation programmes globally for over 40 years. These programmes are now keeping communities around the world safe while saving countless lives. As the deadly threat of Coronavirus spreads into developing countries, our teams on the ground are designing and implementing new programmes to rapidly protect the most vulnerable and provide lifesaving support to those who need it most.
All of these urgent measures and more are desperately needed and demonstrate the way in which housing is inherently connected to our collective public health.
You can help us make sure that everyone has a chance for a brighter future. With your support, Habitat will continue to be a catalyst for thriving communities.
Kenya, especially Nairobi, is the entry point to East Africa where most goods and people travel through to get to the rest of the continent. As a strategic location and a key regional and commercial hub, the risk of a widespread Coronavirus outbreak in the country is extremely high.
At the same time, there are approximately 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the city’s population and occupying just 6% of the land. Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa (and one of the biggest in the world) has a population of 250,000 people. An average shack in Kibera often houses up to 8 or more with many sleeping on the floor. To make matters worse, in most areas there are no toilet facilities, with approximately one latrine for every 50 shacks. Proper sanitation and social distancing measures are near impossible to maintain.
The government of Kenya has formed a National Emergency and Response Committee (NERC) to guide preparedness, early detection and response for Coronavirus in Kenya. To date the government has closed all education institutions and worship centres, banned international flights, restricted movements on borders, urged organisations to allow their employees to work from home and citizens to use mobile money instead of cash.
To date, 97,954 cases and 1,703 deaths have been recorded in the country.
How Habitat is helping to slow the spread of Coronavirus
Targeted text campaign
Many Kenyan people don’t have internet on their mobile phones and therefore cannot access accurate information regarding coronavirus prevention measures. The Ministry of Health in Kenya has been sending out text messages to maintain distance and proper hygiene. However, because the information is only translated in English and Swahili languages, it overlooks a high number of local illiterate ,population. Communities who are either illiterate or don’t understand Swahili or English may not understand the information shared or appreciate the severity of the situation. For this reason, Habitat for Humanity has set up a targeted text message campaign, using an sms chatbot designed to engage and train hard to reach audiences on basic phones and smartphones. The text campaign has been translated into indigenous languages and includes: information on Coronavirus, when and how to seek medical advice, DIY soap and sanitizer recipes, and the importance of staying socially connected while physically distancing. Through this campaign we will be reaching over 100,00 people primarily in informal settlements in Homabay, Laikipia, Nairobi and Kisumu Counties.
Hygiene promotion and awareness
Habitat for Humanity is setting up 100 portable hand-washing stations, filled with water and liquid soap which is dispensed through a tap, in public locations in Homabay and Laikipia Counties. We are working in partnership with community-based organizations and the Ministry of Social Services, to ensure maintenance of the facilities and continued practice of hand-washing. We are distributing hygiene kits to 100,000 targeted slum residents, each containing face masks, liquid soap (500ml) and hand sanitizers (500ml).
To ensure that the families that have been hit hardest are being supported, we have started providing small cash grants and vital resources to 200 poor and vulnerable households that we have identified in a recent baseline survey. These include child headed households, elderly people taking care of orphans and vulnerable children, widows infected by HIV/Aids, without a stable income and taking care of children, and the disabled. Habitat for Humanity in Kenya will keep supporting these families for the next two years.