Updated: Oct 3
Dispatches from Metis Fellows on the Frontlines, Part 1
By: Jeffrey Oduor, Metis Cohort 2 Fellow, Carolina for Kibera
Over the past few weeks, humanity has for the first time been united in unprecedented levels of corporation, humility, and fear; fear for our very own existence. We have had to reassess our lives as individuals, and organizations' values in the midst of shutdowns. COVID 19 knows no boundaries, and for the first time is traumatizing both the rich and poor in equal measure across the globe, which is not a necessary good but speaks volumes in support of universal healthcare.
I have had the privilege of servicing in development work over the past 9 years, and yet none of those experiences has prepared me for the level of disruption COVID 19 has presented. As the disease continues to steadily spread across the country, one can't help but sympathize with the already overburdened health care system which is already on overdrive, communities in which social distancing is all but a fancy word for suburbians, dysentery, typhoid, and cholera are a regular occurrence and of course lack of basic infrastructure. Actually it's not all doom and gloom for these communities in the informal settlements. My experience in Kibera has shown that we are extremely resilient and have over the years overcome a lot of challenges.
Over the past week, I together with my colleagues have been visiting highly vulnerable households and I have learned a couple of things about this disaster; I'll call it the other side of COVID 19. My greatest concern for the community is the other side of COVID 19 that has been overshadowed; the breakdown of social support structure and system, gains made in advancing women and girls right, the daily lunches in schools that guaranteed at least one meal a day, for thousands of school children, the other diseases (STI's, HIV among others), shortage of contraceptives among other things we have become so much accustomed to a regular part of life.
In my various interactions, I have met and interviewed a lot of youth and women, and the desperation for basics is a pending disaster that I think should equally have safety nets. Government, private, and civil society responses MUST not only address sanitation and corona prevention, but also include provisions for food, contraceptives, safety from abuse particularly for children and women, and support for those dealing with others diseases.
In the words of Al Pachino "We either win as a team or die as individuals"' as the world puts its best feet forward in addressing this disease, we should equally spare a thought for the millions who are left without jobs, the declining democratic space for women and other vulnerable groups. I continue to have faith in our ability to contain this disease, my appeal to all of us to pitch in, not to allow gains made over the years be washed away.