COVID in Kenia
EFFECTS OF COVID 19 ON CHILDREN
Despite children not been the face of this pandemic, they risk being the biggest victims. It’s a universal crisis and for some children it will be felt for life long. Negative effects will be more damaging for children in the poorest countries and in the poorest neighborhoods and for those in already disadvantaged vulnerable situations.
More households are being pushed to poverty. Children that initially had a supportive institution, like Save a Soul Children’s Center have been forced to seek refuge in already impoverished homes. Vulnerable families cannot afford some basics like food, water, health-care, and they risk of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation.
In Kenya, all schools are closed, children are encouraged to learn from home through tutorials, distance learning devolved through radio and television and internet, but the fundamental question is can children from poverty stricken families afford or have access to the same? The answer is NO. This leaves the children quite vulnerable with lack of learned basic survival skills provided by the teachers.
ON GOING ACTIVITIES FOR THE CHILDEN OF SAS
Save a Soul Management in Kenya has put all efforts to reach to all children under the SAS Organization Care Programme. Efforts to reach to all individual children poses a great challenge especially because there’s cessation of movement in some areas in Kenya where Covid-19 has greatly affected the population. Majority of the kids are accessed through phone calls and funds transfer. All children in SAS Care Program are needy. But close monitoring has shown that some are more vulnerable than others.
Workers are regularly visiting homes especially in Limuru area.
Some notable concerns are highlighted here below.
CASE SPECIFIC SCENARIOS
SAS Children Centre has 12 teenage girls. According to a recent report by UNFPA (United Nations Funds for Population Activities), states that, with the low – income households, some children may be forced into income – generating activities to support the families’ survival. School closure has stopped the provision of school meals and sanitary towels which children from disadvantaged families depend on. This caries the risk of young girls engaging in transitional sex, in-order to gain not only access to essential needs but also to support their families.
There is evidence that links poverty, lack of family support and transitional sex. Sexual violence too is on an increase, projected during the Pandemic.
With this awareness, SAS caregivers are reaching out to all our teenage girls to find out how best they are taking care and instilling life skills through personalized phone calls. This serves as a reminder of the life skills they learnt over time on discipline and self-awareness.
The SAS girls too are sent funds to purchase sanitary towels. Most guardians have promised enhanced care for the girls. Most of our girls are engaged in home based activities, cooking, cleaning and taking care of their siblings. Those from the rural areas are engaged in farming and accompanying their parents to the farm.
The 13 SAS teenage boys are busy with specific activities like masonry, farming and shop attendants. This is quite positive because they are assisting their parents and guardians with purchase of basic commodities, keeping them safe from malpractices that can ruin their characters.
NEED FOR INTERVENTION FOR EACH NEEDY CASE
Most homes that we have visited have projected enough child care support satisfactorily. But a specific case is of Hannah Wanjiku (16 years) in Ole Tipis Girls National School, Form 2, Rift Valley.
She comes from a family of 9,( her mother and 8 siblings). Her father passed on and her family was chased from their original home in the 2007 land clashes in Kenya. On coming to Ndeiya- Limuru, the mother was given a small portion of land to build only 1 mud house with two rooms to live with her Children. She has lived there for the past 12 years in a very dilapidated desperate home. The home is slowly falling and partially ruined. To make matters worse they have to borrow a toilet. Efforts to check how SAS can build for them a toilet was rendered futile because of lack of space. This requires intervention.
VIABILITY OF CHANGED AND REINTEGRATION CHILD SUPPORT
Another case of concern is where there is change of guardianship when the original caregiver of the child has passed on. Dealing with grief and loss for most children affects the kind of intimate relationships they develop. SAS Management is aware that this can lead to long-term emotional problems, therefore close follow-up of our kids that have lost their close loved ones is paramount.
In the last 2 years, five SAS children have lost their parents/guardians. SAS management has continued to support the children by identifying responsible guardians and ensure that they get all emotional support:
- Peter Mulei is under the care of his uncle after the mother passed on due to HIV and AIDS.
- Raphael Kinuthia is under the care of a close relative to his late guardian.
- Patrick Mbugua is under the care of his step-brother after the father died of age related ailments.
- Dennis Mbugua is under the care of the sisters after the mother succumbed to cervical cancer.
- Daniel Mwangi was adopted by the sister to his mother after his mother died of H.I.V and AIDS related sickness.
SAS Management is very comfortable with the new guardians and in the event that challenges may be experienced, the management will always work closely with family members to ensure that the child is very comfortable.
AREAS IN NEED OF INTERVENTION
The SAS management adopted a feeding program that benefits 40 children from the Center. Available funds that would have been spent at the Center If all children who were accommodated, are now availed to individual families in a share of Ksh. 5,000 per month. This ensures that all families have enough food for the entire family. Currently Covid-19 has greatly affected lifestyles and what is of importance now is basic needs (water, food, clothing and security).
SAS Center has distributed all clothes from the reserve to all the kids to ensure that the children are comfortable and well-dressed at home.
As adverse effects of Covid-19 continue to hit our society hard, there is:
- Fear that learners will forget all they had learnt especially lower grades through continued stay at home (14 SAS children are in the lower grades).
- Children will lack basic numerical skills because of lack of formal learning till January 2021.
- Children will risk fatigue and being drained of interest in learning.
GOVERNMENT POSITION ON RE-INTEGRATION PROGRAMME
The Government of Kenya, through the Department of Social Services, Children’s Office, has greatly supported re-integration programs. They have done this through community sensitization, holding of training and workshops targeting social workers and managers of charitable children’s institutions. The training and workshops emphasize the importance of home based care for orphans and vulnerable children with relatives. The Government’s stand is that children with relatives should not be separated from those relatives or siblings. Interventions should be made by organizations and institutions helping vulnerable children to offer that care while they are in the family set-up.
Almost all of SAS children have relatives that care for them during re-integration programmes. SAS management teams will work on development of a school programme that will have positive impact.
POSITIVE IMPACT ON CHILDREN SUPPORTED THROUGH OUT-REACH PROGRAMME
- Vulnerable children supported by out-reach programmes are able to understand the struggles faced by their parents and relatives as they endeavor to provide care and protection to them and their siblings.
- Since the vulnerable children are supported from home, the other siblings and family members are also uplifted since they benefit from the support given by the institution.
- There is no disconnect from family members since the vulnerable children are not taken to another location in-order for care to be provided to them.
- Another advantage of out-reach programmes is that more vulnerable children can be supported since the operational costs are less.
- Based on the operational model of the outreach programme more vulnerable children and households can be identified and targeted to ultimately benefit from the programme.
- Vulnerable children will not suffer the effects of institutionalization which is caused by prolonged stay in a charitable children’s institution since they are in a family based structure of care.
Let’s keep our children in prayers. Reported cases of sexual, physical and mental abuse on children are on the rise during this Covid-19 Pandemic. Fear that learners will forget all they had learnt especially children in lower grades because of continued stay at home. The children lack basic numerical skills from keeping away from formal learning till January 2021. Children risk fatigue and drained interest in learning. In Kenya, we are not out of the woods yet, in-fact it’s actually the beginning of peak climb on Covid-19 Pandemic.
May the Lord protect us all.
We thank God for his amazing power and work in our lives, we thank you for your goodness and for his blessing over us. I take this opportunity to thank all Save A Soul family. Words cannot express how grateful we are. You are a wonderful family, friends and partners. We appreciate your love, kindness, support and generosity. We are incredibly fortunate to work with you and for you.
Praying for you always.
2nd Corinthians 4:15
And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry, and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few, I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.
Report Written by: Emily Wanjiku Mwangi – Project Manager – Save A Soul Children’s Center – Ndeiya, Limuru, Kiambu, Kenya.