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COMMUNITY INITIATIVES

Resident associations key in virus fight

Citizens can be more effective if they are well organise, have well–established structures

In Summary
  • There is need to have a comprehensive data base of the initiatives being undertaken by various community groups.
  • Identify challenges and gaps, and work together to address such gaps and enhance such indicatives.
Kenya Red Cross officials train Kabarnet prisoners on coronavirus prevention in Baringo county on Wednesday.
SAFE DISTANCING? Kenya Red Cross officials train Kabarnet prisoners on coronavirus prevention in Baringo county on Wednesday.
Image: JOSEPH KANGOGO

Like many countries across the world, Kenya is experiencing huge political and societal changes as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. For many communities, the social and economic impacts are likely to be dire. But local efforts that nurture and strengthen connectivity and a sense of belonging will be vital to mitigating the fallout. Local responses to the pandemic are minimising the spread and impact of the virus in the communities.

Citizens play a key role in the fight against Covid -19, and can be more effective in their role if they are well organised and have in place well-established structures such as resident associations as tools for engaging government on service delivery. Over the past decade, Kenya has seen rapid growth of resident associations and more citizens are embracing the need to take charge of their neighbourhoods. The associations have been instrumental in advocating better services.

Since the Covid-19 situation began in Kenya, resident associations across the country have stepped up to support the fight against the pandemic in various ways. For instance a number of resident associations have been instrumental in supporting efforts aimed at creating awareness on safety measures, mobilising residents to participate in mass testing, installing handwashing stations in neighbourhoods and sharing experiences and educational materials through social media platforms.

Others are disinfecting high traffic places within the neighborhoods, establishing community welfare funds to assist the less fortunate, and distributing personal protective equipment such as face masks, gloves and sanitiser.  These activities have positively contributed to efforts aimed at reducing the spread of the virus within neighbourhoods.

However resident associations have experienced several challenges in their responses towards Covid-19 at the neighbourhood level. For instance, noncompliance by some residents to adhere with  measures and guidelines set by the government on social distancing, handwashing and wearing of face masks, thus posing health risks within communities.

The spread of inaccurate information on social media has created tension within communities. Poor disposal of waste from Covid-19 is increasing the risk of infection. Then there is the inconvenience caused by upsurge of drinking of alcohol at home or within estates, and stigmatisation of individuals who have tested positive to Covid-19, which creates disharmony in communities. The current lockdown in some counties and cessation of movement order have also heightened frustrations among many residents.

While tremendous gains have been made through the efforts of government and other sectors in the fight against Covid-19, there is need to actively engage communities by establishing structured engagement with community groups such as resident associations and using their networks to facilitate initiatives aimed at supporting the fight against the pandemic.

There is need to have a comprehensive data base of the initiatives being undertaken by various community groups, identify challenges and gaps, and work together to address such gaps and enhance such indicatives. Given that the coronavirus may be with us for a very long time, more attention should be given to community ownership and community driven mitigation measures to ensure sustainability.    

Programmes officer, Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations