Effects of Covid-19 on people with disabilities in Kibra

Wednesday May 13 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, especially the economy.

Many companies are laying off staff, others are sending workers on compulsory leave while the lucky employees have been asked to work from home.

SLUM DWELLERS

Slum dwellers, who mostly rely on menial jobs, are not spared either. They can hardly go out to work without violating the social distancing rule. Buying face masks and hand sanitisers is costly due to their meagre wages.

People living with disabilities (PLWD) are the worst hit. Politicians, individuals and organisations have been donating food without putting in place clear measures to ensure they reach this group.

The PLWD always find themselves in the middle of stampedes as they cannot push and shove through crowds to get a share of the food rations, save for those who have been deliberately targeted by organisations or well-wishers.

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As the government strives to cushion the vulnerable from the effects of Covid-19, this group should be given top priority.

Giving people living with disabilities and their caregivers face masks, hand sanitisers and food during the pandemic is vital.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Some people living with disabilities cannot practice social-distancing while they always need support to move around.

The Nation visited some of the people living with disabilities in Nairobi’s Kibra slum to find out how they are coping with the effects of coronavirus.

Ms Eunice Adhiambo, a mother of four, is a person living with disability. She had an accident in 2010 before her husband fled seven years later. She also takes care of her younger sister and a niece.

Ms Adhiambo, who sells mandazi in Lindi, Kibra, says her only source of income has been seriously affected by Covid-19. She can barely sell mandazi made from one packet (2kg) wheat flour. She used to sell 6kgs before the pandemic.

Mr Francis Owino and Beryl Akoth, a couple which also lives in Lindi Ward, has a 24-year-old son who has cerebral palsy.

Mr Owino is a driver. Before the virus struck, he used to drive his employer’s children to school and back while his wife did laundry for households.

CONSTANT CARE

They cannot go out to work anymore. Their son needs diapers and constant care. Whenever Ms Akoth seeks assistance from various organisations or government agencies, she is always asked to take their son to the organisations' or government offices. Most of the time, she does not get any help.

Transport is a challenge especially now that public service vehicles are required to carry a specific number of passengers in a bid to observe social-distancing.

Her son needs to attend three therapy sessions every week. Each session costs Sh500 which the couple can no longer afford. Lately, she tales her son through therapy sessions in the house.

When we visited the family, Amani Kibera, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) had just delivered some foodstuffs to the family.

Mr McDonald Muyaga and his wife Khadija Khubasu stay in Lindi, Kibra. Ms Khubasu is HIV positive. She is a house manager in Kiambu but her employer recently asked her not to go for work till the pandemic ends. 

Her husband is casual labourer. He works at construction sites. He no longer goes to work.

Amani Kibera, an NGO operating in the informal settlement had also brought them some foodstuffs.
Mr Benson Ooko, a co-founder of Amani Kibera says the organisation began donating foodstuffs and other items to vulnerable families after assessing the effects of Covid-19 after the introduction of the 7pm to 5am curfew.

CURFEW

For those on night shift but in firms that offer non-essential services, working at night stopped.

The organisation has employed youth who make face masks which they sell and use the proceeds to buy food that they donate to needy families in Kibra.

Mr Jared Ontita is a member of Just City Working Group, an organisation that partners with others to facilitate dialogue through working groups.

The group brings together civil societies, trade unions, members of county assemblies, government representatives, and academia working in Kenya’s urban centres.

The objective of Just City is to promote urban social justice, equal distribution of opportunities for social mobility, enhanced access to social space and family friendliness in Kenyan cities.

HUMAN RIGHTS

The organisation also advocates for the rights of special interest groups like PLWDs, the elderly, and people with terminal illnesses among others.

Ms Mildred Omino, a young woman who lives with a disability is also a member of Just City.

She's an administrator at the University of Nairobi and a gender and disability advocate.

She says that people living with disabilities require a level playing ground, devoid of stereotyping and prejudice.