German Embassy partners resource center to fight Covid-19 in Mathare slums

Billian Music Family

Billian Ojiwa, the founder of Billian Music Family resource center, alongside Liza Micke, the Economic Affairs and Economic Cooperation and Development officer at the German Embassy, during the facemasks and handwashing soaps distribution exercise in Nairobi's Mathare slums on January 14, 2021.

Photo credit: Amina Wako | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • During the exercise, small business owners were also sensitised on the importance of observing Covid-19 guidelines and protocols.
  • Facemasks, hand washing soaps and clean water are neither affordable nor a priority to many slums dwellers.  

Residents of Mathare slums in Nairobi on Thursday benefitted from free facemasks and handwashing soaps from the German Embassy in Nairobi in partnership with Billian Music Family, a resource and leadership center.

Three primary schools, a health centre and small business owners within the densely populated informal settlement were among the beneficiaries of these essential items.

Daystar Junior Academy, Why Not Academy, Maji Mazuri, Uzima White Medical Clinic and small business owners received more than 500 masks and 10 litres of liquid soap.

Billian Ojiwa, the founder of the resource center, has been partnering with different organisations to provide the essential items in the fight against Covid-19.

During the exercise, small business owners were also sensitised on the importance of observing Covid-19 guidelines and protocols.

Through the small project fund, the German Embassy has partnered with the resource center to have 5,000 masks and 1,000 litres of soap produced and distributed in Mathare.

Billian Music Family

Billian Ojiwa (right), the founder of Billian Music Family resource center, alongside Liza Micke (left), the Economic Affairs and Economic Cooperation and Development officer at the German Embassy, during the facemasks and handwashing soaps distribution exercise in Nairobi's Mathare slums on January 14, 2021.

Photo credit: Amina Wako | Nation Media Group

“Since last year, we have been using the funds to fight Covid-19 in the informal settlement. We have 5,000 masks and 1000 litres of liquid soap being distributed in the community to curb the spread of the virus,” said Liza Micke, the Economic Affairs and Economic Cooperation and Development officer at the German Embassy. 

Schools in Kenya reopened for full-time learning for all learners on January 4, 2021, after a nine-month closure, to slow down the spread of the virus.

Although the government pledged to distribute at least 7 million facemasks to children from vulnerable homes, some school-going children within informal settlements are yet to receive the masks.

One such place is Mathare where Ojiwa says he started distributing free facemasks and handwashing soap to schools after head teachers reached out to him as many parents could not afford the items.

With nearly all households surviving on less than a dollar a day, facemasks, hand washing soaps and clean water are neither affordable nor a priority to many slums dwellers.  

Basic amenities

With people advised to observe physical distancing and good hygiene habits amidst the pandemic, health experts have constantly reiterated that the simple practice of hand washing with soap and clean water is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs and viruses.

However, social distancing is still a big challenge in communities that are as densely populated as Mathare.

With more than 60,000 people per square kilometre, houses in Mathare are small and overcrowded with basic amenities often hard to come by.

When Covid-19 was first reported in the country in March of last year, there was the challenge of how to prevent and contain the disease from spreading in informal settlement where availability of clean water for handwashing is a challenge.

However, in Mathare, Ojiwa in partnership with the German Embassy in Nairobi, 7th Memorial Park, Foot Prints for Change, Crime Sio Poa and Kenya Unite have been supporting communities by providing food, water, soap and masks during the pandemic.

Ojiwa says they have been supplying about 20,000 litres of water two to three times a week into erected tanks. They also make sure that every household gets about 100 litres of water for free on the day of supply.

They have also set up handwashing points in the slums to ensure that the residents — both children and adults — wash their hands regularly while outside their houses.

Billian Music Family

Billian Ojiwa (centre), the founder of Billian Music Family resource center, during the facemasks and handwashing soaps distribution exercise in Nairobi's Mathare slums on January 14, 2021.

Photo credit: Amina Wako | Nation Media Group

Through community volunteers, the team also managed to identify vulnerable households and provided them with shopping vouchers of papers and via SMS instead of food. Those who get the vouchers redeem them at designated local shops.

They have also been supporting local businesses to sustain themselves during the pandemic. Apart from that, Ojiwa's organisation also made sure many children in Mathare continued with their online education during the nine-month break from school due to the pandemic.

“When the schools were closed, we made sure the Class Seven, Eight and Form Three and Four learners carried on with their studies. Through the partnership, we offered lessons via Zoom. We also provided data bundles to the students to enable them attend the online classes,” Ojiwa said.

To make sure they continue with their studies, the center also provided lunch for those attending classes, this helped to keep them off the streets.

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