Assisting the Homeless in Kenya
A group of young activists are distributing food in poorer areas of Eastern Nairobi to assist those hit by the economic impact of COVID 19. They are led by Carine Umutoniwase of the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network of Africa (JENA)-sponsored Lead Magis Youth Network.
When we finish our day’s ministry to the poor, the youngsters tell me, “Father Charlie we need to go see another victim of COVID 19 that needs encouragement and help.” We go to meet Wanjiru. She has no house or home, and is on a roof top of an unfinished apartment with her children. There is no roof so she just spans a cloth fabric across two unfinished short walls as shelter against the sun and rain.
A major social impact of COVID-19 in Africa’ s major cities is the disruption of economic activity in the informal sector, which forms up to over 70% of the African economy. In the informal sector people sell vegetables, fruits, clothing and even some basic electronic goods. Now that governments have imposed lockdown measures, most of these traders are not able to earn an income. Most of these folks do not have any savings.
Carine and her team found Wanjiru, 27, where she took shelter following eviction for not paying rent. Wanjiru’s business, hawking fruits on Mombasa Road, has seen the number of customers decline and prices for stock spike. She has been trying to make a living as a laundrywoman but has not had enough customers.
Last week thugs barged into the open unfinished building, where Wanjiru was sleeping with her two children, and attacked her asking for money. Wanjiru had some medical treatment but she is still unwell and needs medical attention.
When Carine and her team of young people got wind of the story called on the Jesuits’ COVID19 response team and along with them helped Wanjiru recover her house and get some food while she waits to go back to her business after lockdown. So now Wanjiru is back in her bedsit.
“We have put together a few coins to support her but we need more,” said Carine. “Wanjiru is not the only one. In the last one and half months we have met several who have lost housing. It’s just that this is one is the worst cases though, given the horrible outcomes. There are others we have helped to keep their accommodation but as I have said there are several who have fallen through cracks and are homeless. Wanjiru and others need help and deserve better.”
By Fr. Charlie Chilufya, S.J, Director – JCAM Justice and Ecology Office
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Photo credit: Fr. Charlie Chilufya, S.J