We look back at our budget and plan for 2020 and don't know whether to laugh or cry! We are used to dealing with the unexpected in Kenya - or so we thought - but by way of natural disasters in areas outside of Kitale affecting the influx of people to Kitale or possible tribal violence at election times. We were not expecting Covid-19!
Government restrictions severely impacted our work on the streets from mid March onwards. Kenya went into lock-down which closed our Street Smart centre and prevented us using our mobile school. Lock-down and curfew severely restricted our outreach work also. However, we did manage to reintegrate a considerable number of children at the onset of lock-down. This was somewhat rushed but at least the kids were off the streets and we could more easily work with them in their family setting rather than in a heavily-policed town centre. We diverted our funding resources to emergency relief packs for families who suddenly found themselves with school-age children home all day and missing out on possible school feeding programmes and, even worse facing loss of income from jobs that no longer existed. The markets were closed, non-essential businesses were closed and there were restrictions on transport. All of this combined to severely impact the income of those working in businesses that were closed.
Kenya does not have a social welfare system and so there was no income assistance for the thousands who suddenly found themselves with no money coming in. We have been working directly with some of the worst-affected families to ensure they at least have some food on the table.
Like so many, we had not foreseen just how long this crisis would continue. Four months later, the country has just opened to some extent but schools and tourism are still badly affected and many still remain unemployed. Like so many countries, we are faced with the dilemma of opening up and easing lock-down versus climbing covid-19 cases. We expect another lock-down to be imminent as we do not have the medical facilities to cope with vastly increased covid-19 cases and the Government has done an amazing job so far in keeping the numbers at a manageable level but the sacrifice has been the economy.
So, we continue to do our best to ensure that children at least do not go to bed hungry and that we can rescue and reintegrate children from the streets as quickly as possible to ensure they are in a safe home when the next lock-down and curfew hit us.
We are thankful for your support through these trying times. We will continue to try and keep as many families from the brink as we can.
Jul 7, 2020
Covid 19 has a far reach
By Ian Wilson - Director
It has not been formally announced yet, but it is highly likely that Kenyan schools will not reopen at all in 2020. Families that rely on the school system to keep their children occupied, as well as providing them with a meal every day where feeding programmes are available, are already struggling after having their children home for the past three months.
Many parents have lost income due to covid 19 making their jobs obsolete or reducing their income substantially. This is a further blow. Many have relied on school feeding programmes or sponsored school places to ensure a hot meal every day for their child even before covid 19 came along. Those who have been displaced through drought, floods, landslides etc over recent years have not had time to fully settle and establish businesses, small farms etc and have been dependant on assistance such as sponsorship. Many charities have curtailed donations or programmes since the advent of covid 19 so, even in parts of the country that have not had a single case of covid 19, it's effects on the economy and social interaction and education have been sorely felt.
We have been trying to seek out such families and help with their food needs but another six months of this is going to bring serious hardship to many.
Not all parents are in a position to be able to homeschool their child - they may not have been to school themselves or have no resources such as text books, technology or internet. Without a square meal at home, and with nothing to occupy themselves, there is more danger than ever of children running to the streets in hope of food or rescue, or getting into trouble through hunger and boredom. Please consider helping organisations such as ours that are helping the vulnerable in these difficult times. This time round, it is not drought or flooding that is likely to cause starvation - having barely made it through those problems, covid 19 is the new form of drought.
What strange times we are living in! Who could have imagined the global disruption brought upon us all these past months by Covid 19? In Kenya, we have mixed blessings. The Government acted swiftly when the country’s first case was diagnosed and closed down international air traffic. The Ugandan authorities closed their land border with the country and, recently land borders with neighbouring Somalia and Tanzania were also closed. A track and trace system was implemented, quarantining those with the illness and their contacts and this continues. We now have just over 1,000 diagnosed cases in the country, mainly in Nairobi and Mombasa. The rest of the country underwent varying degrees of lockdown and stay at home recommendations. Schools and universities were closed as were large markets, churches, hotels, restaurants (except for takeaway food), sports facilities and ‘non essential’ businesses eg hair salons. Although this was a wise move in the early days of the pandemic to prevent loss of life and pressure on a health system ill equipped to cope, as two months have passed by, people are really feeling the economic strain in a country that does not have unemployment assistance or other social welfare supports. The large self-employed sector are really feeling the pinch and suffering genuine hardship. The same applies to those employed in businesses impacted by the lockdown such as tourism, where many staff have lost their jobs and income. Our boys in university were sent home in March when all learning institutions were closed. Both boys are from impoverished backgrounds without parental support so are reliant on us to help them survive through these difficult times. Both of them have always been willing to find some casual work to help out but, right now, there is little by way of casual work and, what there is, is in high demand. Furthermore, Kenyan institutions of learning lag behind in terms of online classes and there was little time for teachers and lecturers to prepare ‘holiday assignments’ to be taken home as the announcement that schools and colleges would close immediately was made over a weekend. So, the boys are reliant on being able to access the internet and do their own research and revision with no assistance in order to keep up to date on their studies. This, of course, requires niceties such as electricity, internet access etc which we take for granted in the west but are not always available in Kenya where daily power cuts have been the norm in this part of the country. However, they are trying to keep up with their studies and to occupy their time effectively. Of course, like every student in the country, they are hoping and praying that they will be able to return to their studies soon to avoid having to add an extra semester or worse to their time in the education system. This is now becoming an increasingly likely scenario. In the meantime, we are providing them with basic essentials and moral support to get them through this. And that is where we need your help. In addition to these two boys, we are also trying to provide such support to many youths in our area who suddenly find themselves with no income at all. Thank you for thinking of them.