CONTAINING COVID-19

Is self-quarantine a logical option in Kenyan slums?

Government needs to come up with a conducive set up to ensure quarantine works.

In Summary

• Overcrowded, substandard housing facilitates the spread of any infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, dengue fever, pneumonia, cholera and malaria.

• This will evidently exacerbate the Covid-19 infection in the areas of Kibera, Mathare, Kayole, Dandora, Baba Ndogo, Fuata Nyayo, Huruma, and Kawangware.

A train passing through Kibera slums.
A train passing through Kibera slums.
Image: FILE.

The coronavirus has rapidly spread across the globe with cases soaring across 143 countries and claiming more than 6,500 lives in only four months.

Due to its alarming levels of spread and severity globally, the World Health Organization has characterized Coronavirus as a pandemic.

 

About 81,048 people in China have been diagnosed since its emergence in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, last December.

 

But there are now about 72,469 confirmed cases outside China, according to the latest WHO figures.

However, the number of people with coronavirus globally could be a much higher number - as many of those with mild symptoms have not been tested and counted.

Many countries are currently either assessing their preparedness or actively responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a radical move, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday announced a raft of measures to tame the spread of the virus in Kenya.

Other than a complete shutdown of all learning institutions, suspension of all public meetings including church services and funerals, Uhuru also ordered for mandatory self-quarantine of all travellers coming to Kenya in the preceding 48 hours.

However, self-quarantine may have its hazards in some areas in the country, especially in the congested Kenyan slums.

Overcrowded, substandard housing facilitates the spread of any infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, dengue fever, pneumonia, cholera and malaria.

 
 

Poor sanitation and lack of access to safe food and water already contribute to the high prevalence of diarrhoea within slums.

This will evidently exacerbate the Covid-19 infection in the areas of Kibera, Mathare, Kayole, Dandora, Baba Ndogo, Fuata Nyayo, Huruma, and Kawangware.

Deloitte Economist, Karisa Charles told the Star that the biggest challenge in containing the virus is the incubation period, where the patient shows no symptoms of the virus.

"If it happens in slums, there is a risk of many people being infected," he said.

"The government needs to come up with a conducive set up that will ensure quarantine works for every Kenyan". 

According to WHO's directive, a self quarantined person needs to stay at home and not leave to go anywhere for 14 days, unless one needs medical care.

COVID-19 patients have been advised to self-isolate at home while they recover.

While at home, one is also advised to stay away from others. If possible, stay in a specific room and use a separate bathroom.

Sharing personal household items should also be limited in the woke of rapid spread. 

Mercy, a resident of Kibera, said she fears for her family should the virus spread in the region.

She is a mother of three and leaves with her sister and mother in a small house.

"Isolating will be very difficult because now we are already too many in this house," she said.

Mary has to share a broken toilet with her surrounding neighbours.

The lack of structurally sound and ventilated homes, access to safe water, access to sanitation, safe and secure tenure, further puts the health of slum dwellers at risk of contracting the fatal virus.

Moreover, slum areas are often left out of major city networks for access to health-care services.

Unplanned urban development exacerbates communicable disease risks related to outdoor and indoor air pollution.

It will be difficult for families who leave a hand to mouth lifestyle.

Mary who is sell charcoal said she has to work daily to feed her children and it will be difficult to stay home should she get infected.