Salesian Sisters support Kenyan families hit by Covid-19

Salesian Sisters support Kenyan families hit by Covid-19

Posted: Thu, 09 Jul 2020 17:46

  • Salesian Sisters support Kenyan families hit by Covid-19
  • Preparing food packs

  • Packing grocery bags

  • Getting groceries ready to distrubute

Fr Francis Preston SDB has sent us an account of the situation in Dagoretti Market, a very poor township about two miles from the Salesian Sisters' Novitiate at Mutuini, near Nairobi, Kenya, where he has been based for the last three months. Fr Francis writes 'the big problem here in East Africa at the moment is hunger. By switching some of the money I had received from benefactors and friends to pay school fees, I have so far been able to give the Sisters at Dagoretti the equivalent of 500 euros to help them buy some of the food they need. Another 2000 euros has gone to St Monica's parish, Rongai, where the 20+ orphan children we are sponsoring, live." The article below was written by Sister Purity Ndiwiga FMA, the dynamic leader of the Salesian Sisters' Community at Dagoretti Market, as her way of thanking all those who have helped the Sisters' work on behalf of the poor people of the township.

This has been the hardest year for the poor families living around Dagoretti Market to cope with the crisis caused by the COVID – 19 pandemic. Before Kenya reported its first cases in mid-March 2020, the country was already facing an ongoing locust invasion; the pandemic was an additional problem and challenge that has affected the social and economic factors in the country. (Cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, and Kenya now has the highest official figures in East Africa, with more than 8000 virus cases and over 160 deaths, representing a fatality rate of 2.09%. (Guardian, 7 July 2020). Nairobi is the most affected area.)

The Kenyan Government has been conducting testing and treating patients across the country, but that does not seem to stop the numbers rising each new day. The Ministry of Health has given directives to the citizens in order to protect them: people must strictly maintain physical distancing and wear masks when in public places. Citizens must observe limited travelling within their own county and total lockdown from travelling to other counties. Citizens are also to observe curfew hours from 9pm to 5am. Large gatherings such as sports events, churches, parties, schools and bars are strictly banned. Funerals must be attended by a maximum of 15 people and the ceremony must be conducted in 30 minutes or less time. Restaurants have been opened as long as they are following laws and regulations laid down by the Ministry of Health.

COVID-19 is much more than a health crisis here in Kenya. The pandemic has in a way created devastating social, economic and political crises that might leave deep scars on many people and especially vulnerable groups. Many working places like city and towns are these days deserted as people stay indoors, either by choice or by government order. Every day, people are losing jobs and income, with no way of knowing when normality will return.

Many poor people in the slums of Dagoretti live hand to mouth, day to day, and have to work to have enough money to buy food. This involves risking exposure to the disease, because they must go out to look for casual jobs even though the lockdown means there is hardly any work to be found. The slaughterhouses, the major working places of many families of our sponsored children in Dagoretti, are not functioning as they normally do. Few people are hired to work there since the meat business has gone down. People have no money to buy meat. Hardly any animals are transported from outside the country these days for slaughtering due to the lockdown at the borders, so the business has really gone down. It is just very hard for the families to manage for their basic needs without work and with restrictions of the movement in all corners of the country.

Many of our sponsored children in Dagoretti live in rented tiny, overcrowded homes with a single room. Maintaining physical distance is almost impossible. In fact, it is a highly populated slum since it is a big market that supplies meat to the city of Nairobi and to nearby counties. Therefore, many people frequent the slaughterhouses and the open air market beside the meat market.

Another great problem Dagoretti is experiencing at the moment is poor access to water, when really people need to wash hands often to keep away for contracting the virus. Access to water these days is extremely limited because of the heavy rains we had there in previous months, which has caused breakdown of the pipes and interruption of the whole system in the area. Regular hand washing is almost impossible. Residents have to line up on the streets to fill their containers with water from the tankers that are delivering and distributing water to people for their basic use.
In general, Kenya's situation is not good at all. Schools were closed with the first reported case in March, 2020. Since then, children have been at home with their families. Poor children are really marginalised because they cannot concentrate to study from their single room or in the limited space where they have to read and do everything else.

Many poor families cannot access online learning or the programmes that are broadcast on television for children to keep up with their education from home.
As the crisis impacts on every aspect of Kenya's society today, the effects will continue to be felt long after it is over. Its impact on the socioeconomic activities in the country will expose already vulnerable and marginalised people to more suffering. By the time poor children resume school, they will have forgotten most of what they had learnt if not everything. These days, we have started experiencing cases of teenage pregnancies and increase of drug abuse. COVID-19 has also caused other unique challenges in the Dagoretti slum, as people now frequently experience instability and insecurity. This crisis has greatly triggered actions that violate human rights and cause a breakdown in law and order. The most affected are the young people, who are idling every day since they have nothing to do in their homes.

We, the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, Dagoretti Market, witness knocks at our door daily as the poor families seek for help. With the support we get from our donors, we have tried to help some of the most vulnerable people, and especially families of the sponsored children, in small ways. In May 2020 we distributed packages of food stuff, hand wash soaps and masks to 300 families, only twice. They were indeed very grateful to all who contributed to support them. This distribution of the packages was enabled to us by people of goodwill like you. We are grateful to you all for making this possible, to provide a meal for these needy families at this time of struggle and need. Thanks a million to you all!!!

We are aware that this is a world disaster which has affected many people globally. Though none of our sponsored families are so far infected by the virus, and numbers in Kenya seem fewer compared to other countries, we are equally affected. We cannot stand the fact that the continent of Europe is suffering massive deaths daily of Coronavirus, and especially United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the lands of many of our benefactors, sponsors and people of generous hearts. The children, Mamas and their families, are left heart broken by this sad news. It breaks their hearts to imagine that their schooling can be terminated anytime with the long stay of the virus. They wonder what they could do to stop this deadly sickness from taking away the lives of their loved ones. They acknowledge how much you have been a support to their education, and other basic needs. They believe that, the greatest support they can offer to you all from this far end of Africa, is only to turn their gaze to our creator with trustful hearts that, HE who is powerful protect you and keep you safe from this deadly sickness and grant you good health each day of your lives.

Sister Purity Ndiwiga FMA

If you would like to support the work of the Salesian Sisters in Dagoretti Market, please email us. And please keep them and the people they support in your prayers.

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