What’s Going On In Kenya?
Like at least 176 other countries, Kenya has begun to see cases of COVID-19. To date, Kenya has 59 confirmed cases, but they are almost entirely limited to counties surrounding Kenya’s two largest cities, Nairobi and Mombasa. There have been no cases of the virus confirmed in Kisumu, where we work, or in nearby counties. Kenya has only recorded one death. Only very recently was the first case of in-country transmission recorded.
|Nairobi testing: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP|
The Kenyan government closed all schools, public gatherings, and the borders on March 15th, when the country had just one confirmed case. On March 22nd, they cancelled international flights and ordered restaurants to close. On March 27th, they introduced a nationwide curfew from 7pm to 5am, punishable by strict (and sometimes violent) police enforcement. More than 1,200 tests have been performed and the government is aggressively locking down the country and locating those who have had contact with sick people. Because of these strong and early actions, it is still possible for Kenya to avert a large-scale outbreak.
In slums like Obunga, where we work, quarantining and social distancing are simply not possible. Most people live in tightly-packed one- or two-room houses. Iron sheet houses are very hot during the day, so people are not able to stay indoors for extended periods of time. Once outside, the houses have very little space around them. With no refrigeration or running water, people have to move about daily for their essentials. Banks, grocery stores, and a few restaurants able to convert to carryout are the only businesses open. Open air markets, a key part of the economy, are all closed.
The healthcare system in Kenya is unprepared for a pandemic. The entire country has only 518 critical care beds, which is 3% of the per-capita number in the US, and they are working to add more as quickly as possible. Some boarding schools, of which there are many in Kenya, are prepared to be used to house patients if necessary.
What’s Going On With Ndoto?
The Ndoto Kenya office has been closed for two weeks, minus a few small projects that have been wrapping up, and only one person has been going into the office per day. By this week, the office is completely closed and people are working from home almost entirely.
Schools were closed in mid-March and will remain closed at least through the end of April. April is a school holiday month, when we normally stay very busy with service events, retreats, and discipleship. All of that is cancelled now, so our staff is staying in touch with our students electronically. All are safe at this point.Ndoto set up 12 hand washing stations around Obunga early on to help protect people. We are paying two college students to monitor them and make sure they are stocked with clean water and soap. Our team is working with community leaders to identify some of the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly, immobile, or those with preexisting conditions. We will be delivering some basic supplies and food to those families to eliminate any need for them to move about.
There is a church-wide text message system set up for announcements, as email is less prevalent in our community, and we have begun to use it to provide accurate information, encouragements, and devotions. Misinformation and rumors have become prevalent in places like this and this is a chance to correct that.
How Does This Affect Me?
The letters that our sponsors have been writing to their students were to travel with two volunteers whose trip was cancelled, so along with all student activities being postponed, we have decided to push the letter cycle back by several months. Our current plan is to send all letters to Kenya in late June and have students write replies, then bring them to the US in mid-September. If you have already written, your letter is ready to go. If you have not written yet, please still do! Mail it to us (address below) or email it to us at email@example.com.
|Ndoto has finished a long-planned repair of the Ndoto sanctuary, and is now shut down.|
We will do everything we can to serve and care for our students who may be in need during this time. So far, the students have not missed much school. We are grateful that so many of you have continued to give. This is a challenging time for all nonprofits and churches and these closures have not decreased many of our expenses, so please continue to give as you are able.
Many of you may be in a position to help beyond what you may already be doing to help locally. The approximate cost of our hand washing stations, buying water and supplies, plus the attendants, is $30 per month. Three of them are funded already – once we get the remaining nine funded, additional $30 donations will each provide two baskets of basic supplies and food to the most vulnerable in our community.
As you can imagine, we are praying hard for this coronavirus outbreak. Pastor Michael has divided up some church members and leaders so that there is somebody from the Ndoto Community Church in prayer for this situation 24 hours every day. Please pray with us as you are able. Here are the top prayer needs:
- That God would protect Obunga and communities like it. If somebody in a slum like Obunga were to contract the coronavirus, it would spread wildly and uncontrollably.
- For provision for people who are out of work or cannot access their normal affordable sources of food and basic needs.
- For our Kenyan staff as they adapt their ministry to these times.
- For our family of supporters who are suffering the effects of this outbreak in many ways. We do have one sponsor with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, and another supporter whose daughter was hospitalized with it. Other sponsors report that they may be on the verge of losing jobs.
Thank you for your prayers and support – we feel them and they mean a lot to us!