Since the government announced the first positive COVID-19 patient on March 13, there has been lots of community work going on in Mathare and other poor settlements in the country. Recognizing that they cannot depend on their government, grassroots activists have been mobilizing to get water tanks, water, sanitizers, soap, food, money and other essentials to desperate citizens. This situation is explained in a more in-depth manner through a Social justice Centre Working Group (SJCWG) statement available here.
Many people in Mathare and other poor urban settlements have lost their jobs or are unable to work for daily wages because of the “mini-lockdown.” And because of this food, water and other solidarities become very important. This situation has been made worse by the violent enforcement of the curfew, and a number of Mathare residents have been beaten extensively, and a 13 year old boy was killed on March 31 while observing the curfew on his balcony. His whole family were present during that execution by bullet, and until now no police officer has been brought to book for this.
At MSJC we have been lucky to have received solidarity from various people and organizations: we have received a water tank, money, food support, water, sanitizers, masks and soap. We are also working together with other organizations such as Ghetto Foundation, Kiamaiko Community Justice Centre (KCJC), Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and Muungano wa Wanavijiji (under the banner of Mathare SPA) to have a more coordinated response as organizations advocating and struggling for Mathare.
As an organization, our members have also done a participatory survey across all wards of Mathare to understand the greatest priorities of residents, as well as to create awareness on COVID-19: initial survey results are available through this link: (MSJC initial community COVID-19 findings). We also currently have a water tank in front of our space where we provide free water and soap for residents for hand washing, and have been able to distribute some masks. Thank you to those who have contributed to help us buy water, food and other essential, and for any one else who would like to contribute, they are welcome to send via MPESA or World Remit to Wangui Kimari (the Participatory Action Research Coordinator at MSJC) on this phone number (+254728174329). We will acknowledge all donations on our website, and are very grateful for them as we seek to support Mathare community members who are really struggling at this time.
Other community based organizations are doing similar work, and to find out about the work of other justice centres across Kenya, please contact the Social Justice Centre Working Group (SJCWG) at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We keep praying and hoping that this situation will pass soon locally and across the globe, and that we will all be able to keep safe. Until then we keep on trying to make sure our communities are safe and healthy. We hope we can stand together to make this possible. Please see pictures below from ongoing community efforts during this time. Pamoja!