AFRICA/KENYA - Covid-19: poverty bites in slums, but "the social and pastoral lifeline of small communities is extraordinary"

Tuesday, 19 May 2020 coronavirus   human rights   poverty   slum   missionary institutes   orders  

Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - "Social distancing remains a difficult goal to achieve, in some cases absolutely unrealistic. We just have to hope that the contagion does not progress", says Father Andrew Bwalya, director of the Comboni magazine "New People" to Agenzia Fides, who describes the situation in Kenya, where the lockdown is active, with a curfew imposed at sunset until 5 in the morning.
The Comboanian religious reports an explanatory example: "In the capital, Kebira stands, the largest slum in Africa where an infinite number of people live in 2.5 square km (the estimates, not verifiable, range between half a million and much more, Editor's note). There is no urban plan, houses are often shacks with many families sharing the same bathrooms. There is no regular network of roads, so to reach a place you are forced to pass through the alleys and come into close contact with hundreds of people. And Kebira, is just one of the many ghettos where thousands of people in Kenya live piled up".
In early April, government authorities imposed the lockdown and curfew from 7.00pm to 5.00am, and the measures have been extended until the first week of June. The police, lined up on the streets, intervened harshly on those who contravened the measures. "Many people have to move to get to work and go to the city, transport in this stage is reduced and the risk of being around after 7.00pm is very real. The government has allocated $ 100 million to help those particularly affected by the pandemic and will distribute 2,500 shillings (approximately $ 240) per poor family. Except that it will not be easy to identify needy families and allocate funds".
The lockdown, explains the missionary, has inevitably affected the Christian communities that are dealing with the impossibility of celebrating rites and meet. "Churches are all closed and nobody can go to liturgical celebrations because they risk being arrested. Fortunately, the pastoral care of social media is very active and it has always been possible to communicate through Facebook or via streaming. Easter was broadcast on the main TV and radio channels. The parishes are in turn divided into small groups and communities, more or less 20 families in the same area, who self-manage, coordinated by the parish priest, prayer meetings and help each other in mutual needs. In this difficult period, these small communities have represented an extraordinary social and pastoral lifeline". (LA) (Agenzia Fides, 19/5/2020)