CGIAR Gender News

In her words: One woman fighting COVID-19 in Nairobi

Photo of Kibera, Nairobi
View of the Kibera slums, Nairobi.
Photo: Christine Olson.

Approximately 2.5 million people live in densely packed urban areas across Nairobi, where they are vulnerable to both COVID-19 and its side effects. As the virus spread and curfews came into effect last spring, 90% of households in the slums of Kibera and Mathare reported food insecurity to Alliance researchers.

For Elizabeth Nduta, who hails from the semi-formal settlement of Riruta Satellite, this was her moment to emerge as a leader educating the community on how to prevent and manage the disease.

“As a Community Health Volunteer with the Ministry of Health in Kenya, I educate the community on existing health issues such as TB, HIV, and now COVID-19, through education programs that focus on how to prevent and manage these diseases,” she said.

Ms. Nduta, who also runs a small tailoring business, witnessed the pandemic most adversely affecting those with small businesses, youths and young families. Curfew, restrictions and layoffs have reduced purchasing power within the community, consequently diminishing the income of business owners and resulting in many closures. Insecurity and petty crime in Riruta have risen as people struggle to provide for themselves and their families.  Although Riruta has electricity, says Ms. Nduta, “Access to pipe borne water is a problem. Water does not flow from the existing taps, so we must buy our water from vendors.” With diminished income, residents have struggled to maintain necessary hygiene and sanitation.