Low-income areas will struggle to contain Covid-19

Residents of Kawangware in Nairobi undergo coronavirus testing on May 1, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Imposition of travel restrictions on Nairobi residents has had both social and economic impact, directly affecting 69 per cent of respondents and their households.
  • Only about one-third of the population has received donations from the government — 30 per cent said they got cash, 38 per cent relief food and 15 per cent masks.

A s the Covid-19 crisis continues, a new report suggests that it will be hard to control the spread of the virus in low-income areas.

It indicates that whereas 69 per cent of the people in these areas are affected by the restrictions, only 2 per cent are able to self-isolate.

Regardless of household size, hardly any respondents in Huruma, Kibera, Mathare, Korogocho, Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Kawangware, where the survey was conducted, have sufficient living space at home to quarantine a member they suspect of having the disease.

The report was released on Thursday by research firm Tifa Research following a survey conducted between April 25 and 27.

The figures show that the recent guidelines by the Ministry of Health requiring an entire room for such isolation are inapplicable in the slums, where a majority of households have four to seven members living in tiny cubicles.

The report, "Covid-19 Global Pandemic in Nairobi’s Low-Income Areas: Health, Socio-Economic and Governance Aspects", notes:

“The highest levels of concern with exposure to the virus are expressed with regard to public areas, but even being at home or in the immediate residential area is seen as risky, presumably a reflection of the high population densities among this section of Nairobi’s population.”

This reality has driven up anxiety levels, with 71 per cent of respondents being “very worried” about contracting Covid-19.

BEHAVIOUR CHANGE

Of the more than two-thirds of respondents who are “very worried”, women and older respondents, aged 35 and above, are more anxious with most of them believing that the worst is yet to come.

At the same time, 71 per cent of those who are not worried believe the worst has passed and things will now begin to improve. Less than 10 per cent believe the situation will remain as it is.

On the knowledge how to prevent the disease, the survey found a high level of adoption of the recommended behaviour of washing hands frequently (82 per cent), mask-wearing (79 per cent) and use of sanitiser at (40 per cent). Only 40 per cent avoid crowded places.

Those who are very worried take these measures seriously and tend to use more than one prevention measure.

The report also notes that the imposition of travel restrictions on Nairobi residents – whether they were at home or outside this area at the time – has had both social and economic impact, directly affecting 69 per cent of respondents and their households.

Whether some of these disruptions could have been avoided if they had been given a couple of days’ notice as was the case for the three coastal counties is unclear.

"For women compared to men and for the jobless as compared to those who had been working up to the time of the travel ban, the disruptive impact has been somewhat less, but still quite substantial,” states the report.

RELIEF DONATIONS

The general effect of the pandemic is even worse, with an overwhelming 93 per cent of the poor going through at least one tremendous life-changing effect since the first Covid-19 case were confirmed in the country.

A massive 97 per cent of them have either lost their income completely or are earning very little, making a majority unable to feed their families and pay rent, hence being kicked out into the cold.

Only about one-third of the population has received donations from the government — 30 per cent said they got cash, 38 per cent relief food and 15 per cent masks.

Nearly nine in 10 slum dwellers believe that theft-for-survival has started and will most likely increase in future if the Covid-19 response movement restrictions are kept in place.

While 54 per cent of those polled said this was a strong likelihood in future, 35 per cent said it had already started.

“Indeed, the fact that more than one-third report that such theft-for-survival has already begun suggests just how serious this problem may become. The fact that shop-raiding in several other African counties is already being reported in the media suggests that law enforcement may be required to put more efforts on this issue even as they try to enforce compliance with the various measures in place to contain the virus,” the poll says.

CASH HANDOUTS

When asked what they thought was the “most helpful” response to the virus crisis, more than half said that they would rather be given cash handouts as opposed to food, which was rated as most helpful by 39 per cent of the respondents.

The government has centralised the distribution of food to the Kenya Breweries Managing Director Jane Karuku-led Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board.

The order was made following chaotic distribution of food in Nairobi's sprawling Kibera slums. A total of 356 people participated in the study – 187 men and 169 women aged 18 years or older.

About 2.5 million people live in Nairobi’s slums, making up 58 per cent of the city residents.

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