The impact of COVID-19 in Kenya, by Ruth Omani

My name is Ruth Omani and I am one of the 2018 sandpit research fellows. I am currently involved in exploring the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of Rift Valley Fever in Kenya.

On March 12, 2020, the Government of Kenya confirmed the first case of COVID 19. The government immediately instituted precautionary measures aimed at ‘flattening the curve’. The first measures were aimed at encouraging people to maintain personal hygiene and to social distance from coughing and sneezing individuals; employers were encouraged to let their non-essential staff work remotely. As cases increased though, so did the precautionary measures to further slow the spread: a total ban on international travel, a nationwide night curfew, and a cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi, Kwale, Kilifi, and Mombasa counties were all introduced to stem the spread of COVID 19. It is currently a public health offense to be found in public without a facemask.

I have been working from home since March 13, 2020. Despite the current benefits of working remotely, such as no more morning commutes; there have been challenges in adjusting to this system. As an example, at the beginning of the pandemic my home was not designed as a suitable working space; as a result distractions were negatively impacting my productivity. Although not a very common occurrence in Nairobi where I am currently quarantined, power outage and a lack of (or outage of) the internet also present a challenge. I have at one point lost internet supply for up to 48 hours.

The challenges I am experiencing do not represent those experienced by most Kenyans. Some Kenyans have lost their sources of livelihood due to the global restrictions of movement of people and goods. The situation in Kenya, like most parts of the world, is still uncertain; the number of confirmed positive cases are constantly increasing.

I was scheduled to commence my fieldwork in the last week of March 2020. This had to be suspended indefinitely due to the current pandemic. This means that most of my responsibilities and projects are on hold. I have had to contend with keeping busy with the numerous massive open online courses, International Livestock Research Institute fellows’ seminars, long walks, and cooking strange foods. I very much hope that the situation returns to normal in the coming weeks and months and that people will emerge from the crisis unscathed and healthy.

County workers practise social distancing and wear masks as they queue to renew their employment contracts in Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi, Kenya.

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