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  • Writer's pictureNeil Moore

Adapting to the pandemic in Kibera

Although the reported cases of Covid-19 in Kenya and specifically Kibera remain low, the pandemic nevertheless is having a devastating impact on the lives of those who rely on earning money daily from their small businesses to put food on the table. Hunger is a very immediate problem on the slum.

Our friends in Kibera have responded to help their communities in a number of ways including providing food parcels for families that are struggling the most. And despite the devastating impact on business, some of our small business loan beneficiaries are managing to continue to make loan repayments because their businesses are surviving.

Take Gitau for example. He has been able to keep his business operating because it is diverse. He sells airtime, electrical appliances, cyber services, play stations and also operates a boda boda (motorbike taxi) service. He's able to focus on current demand and during the pandemic he has diversified into the production of hand sanitizers which, not unsurprisingly, have been popular.

We've highlighted Gerson before. He has a loan to help him build latrines to add to his existing public showers business, and despite the economic uncertainty, plus the problem of recent rains washing away some of his pipes, has managed to complete and open the latrines. As well as expanding his business, this is providing a valuable service to his local community especially at a time when personal hygiene is even more important than usual.

Although Gitau and Gerson are examples of those that are surviving well, the ongoing problems are substantial and many are struggling. Those (many) businesses that sell second-hand clothes from around the world have all but closed because they are believed to be infected with Covid-19. And local crime rates have risen with local murders and muggings being reported in the past few days. "Stay home" is an impossible ask for those who live in the Kibera slum and "Stay safe" takes on a dimension beyond avoiding the risk of infection.

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