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It is business as usual at Nakuru dumpsite despite Covid-19 scare

Saturday March 21 2020
pix

A woman searches for discarded items at Gioto dumpsite in Nakuru Town on March 5, 2020. The dumpsite is home to more than 200 families. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By FRANCIS MUREITHI

A few kilometers from Nakuru Town's Central Business District lies the sprawling 42 acres Gioto dumpsite.

Gioto dumpsite is a lifeline for more than 150 families who expose themselves to health risks. They wear no protective gloves as they struggle to eke living under extreme conditions.

Interestingly, as the fears of coronavirus grips the cosmopolitan town, the families here are finding it impossible to keep a social distance even as the town intensifies its surveillance for the deadly virus. They are taking one day at a time.

Many are unaware the thousands of deaths coronavirus has caused globally.  

A spot check by the Nation revealed that life is going on here as if Covid-19 does not exist.

“Nobody has told us about coronavirus, we are hearing it from truck drivers and loaders offloading the garbage,” said a resident.

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GREET EACH OTHER

“Life here is normal, we still greet each other,” he added.

“Here, we inhale some of the most dangerous fumes and we still survive, we are yet to know the impact of coronavirus because nobody has contracted it,” said another man at the dumpsite on Saturday.

Official guidelines says people should keep their distance and isolate themselves should they show symptoms of the deadly disease.

But here, families mingle as they scavenge for valuable items with bare hands, some with their children strapped on their backs. They occasionally take a break to breastfeed the children.

The nauseating stench is enough to keep one at a distance but here, it is business as usual.

There are no toilets here and the nearby bushes come handy when nature calls. The dumpsite has no water and the neighbouring houses are not any better.

The World Health Organization says people should be washing hands with clean water and soap to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Here, water is a scarce commodity and washing hands is a luxury,” says another resident who identified as George.

SHOCKING REALITY

This is the shocking reality is that the cosmopolitan county that is spending millions of shillings on coronavirus awareness campaign yet hundreds who are vulnerable are still in the dark. Mr Kiarii thinks the situation needs to be taken seriously by the county government.

“We may be living in the dumpsite but we also need to eat and earn a living. We don’t want to die. If this virus is killing people like rats as you explained to me, then it is high time the county government sensitised us,” he said.

“We don’t know when to do self-isolation and this quarantine you’re talking about. If they (county government) do awareness [campaigns] in markets and forgets dumpsite, then who is to blame? They should not blame us if there’s any outbreak.” said Ms Wanjiru.

Gioto dumpsite is one of the several dumpsites in the county and in a time like this, diseases can spread fast.

Mr Kamau says he is scared, but fear cannot put food on his table.

“The government should take unprecedented steps to sensitise Gioto dwellers without further delay,” said Mr Kamau.

HUGE GAMBLE

Gioto is a huge gamble to stop spread of the disease just in case coronavirus breaks out. Many slum dwellers are struggling to understand coronavirus and how to protect themselves.

Gioto dwellers argue that any stringent measures should have started with them as they are the most vulnerable.

The big question now is when the county will visit the dumpsite to lower the risk of catching coronavirus.

Washing hands and disinfecting surfaces is part of the slowing the spread of the virus.

Governor Lee Kinyanjui said his government will find a way of dealing with the Gioto dwellers by increasing awareness campaigns.

“Gioto is an area we need to capture and upscale the awareness campaign and our health staff will prioritise the area,” said Mr Kinyanjui.

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