- Stephanie Lorenzet
Unity Within Devastation: How The Kiberan Community Unified In The Face of The Pandemic & Economic D
Within the largest slum in Africa, Kibera lies a strong community where all locals consider each other as family. With a disputed population of about 2.5 million people in an area of only 2.5 square kilometers, Kiberan citizens are not only physically, but also emotionally close to one another. This community has faced many hardships over the past few years, a prominent struggle being the Covid-19 pandemic which ravaged the slum due to the close quarters, scarcity of sanitization and PPE, and the widespread inaccessibility of healthcare. Although the Pandemic is beginning to wane in strength, its effects still linger, and the Kiberan community must rally together once again as they face a sharp increase in the unemployment rate.
Of the entire population in Kibera, 50% are unemployed, with even more struggling under the poverty line. Almost all of those that are currently unemployed are eligible to be working but remain jobless due to the lack of job openings in the surrounding area of Kibera. Of the Kiberans that are lucky enough to find paying work, the jobs are usually in the manual labor sector and are very physically demanding. For these workers, the average wage is $1 USD per day, well below the minimum wage of Kenya which is 15,000 Kenyan Shillings per month, or about $6 USD per day. With these meager wages, even those who are employed are not able to support their families. Although those that are unemployed are eligible for relief services, these services are very sporadic and unreliable, leaving many who are unable to support their families to fend for themselves. The Kiberan community united in the face of economic disaster, with neighbors helping neighbors with food and rent, youth venturing to find work in the city of Kenya, and adults creating their own businesses and jobs within the slum.
The debilitating impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic spread into all aspects of life, including damaging the already weak economy in Kibera. The virus shut down many businesses that served as workplaces for Kiberans, further limiting the available jobs, and increasing unemployment when these workers were laid off after businesses closed. Besides this, with the population density of Kibera being very large, the virus spread easily, affecting thousands of Kiberans and bringing harm to their health as well as infringing on the economy. Due to Covid restrictions such as a 14-day quarantine, workers that were exposed to the virus were unable to go to work, and often lost their jobs and the little income they received, because of being forced to stay home. Although individual Kiberan citizens cannot afford sanitizing products that kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the community came together to solve the covid crisis. Signs and graffiti were posted throughout the slum, reminding citizens of the dangers of the virus and ways to help stop the spread, such as by washing hands, wearing masks, and cleaning surfaces regularly. In addition to this, community leaders mobilized the Kibera Town Center, working with organizations to provide free clean drinking water, sanitizing goods, clean showers and bathrooms, handwashing stations, and daily briefings to update the citizens on the state of the pandemic as well as ways to protect themselves, their families, and the entire community. The community leaders coming together to serve their fellow citizens show how the Kiberan community does not wait for outside help to solve issues plaguing their families, instead, they take charge and tackle the issues they face head-on, relying on faith, hope, and community to push towards a brighter future.
Even with the widespread poverty and economic struggles, Kiberan citizens stay calm, uniting with the common goal of creating a better life for themselves and their families. Although Kiberan citizens have faced many struggles before, they remain steadfast and continue to look at the light at the end of a dark tunnel, coming together to find inventive solutions to the problems they face. The resiliency of Kibera’s community is a testimony to the fire of the human spirit, the drive to continue fighting for better days, and the power that a hopeful, tight-knit community can have in devastating situations.