COVID-19 Diaries – Experiences of adolescent girls and young women
Following the safety measures announced by the Kenyan government to contain COVID-19 across the country, LVCT Health staff donated food and money to support the most vulnerable beneficiaries in our programmes. The funds drive enabled LVCT Health to distribute food to more than 1,000 vulnerable families across all our offices in Kenya. While distributing the donations, our DREAMS teams learned how the pandemic affected these families. This first series of our COVID-19 Diaries highlights the experiences of adolescent girls and young women.
“My mum can no longer earn a living for fear of getting exposed to the virus.”
Diana Wambui (19) lives with her mum in a single-roomed house in Kibagare informal settlement in Nairobi. She is the only child raised by a single mum who lives with a visual impairment.
Her mother is the sole breadwinner of the family and makes a living from begging in the streets of Westlands in Nairobi. Diana’s mum uses her white cane to guide her way, she walks to the bus stop where she boards a ‘matatu’ public transport. She occasionally depends on well-wishers to hold her hand and help her cross the road to her usual spot where she either sits or stands.
During this time of COVID-19, she no longer goes to Westlands for fear of getting exposed to the novel coronavirus. There are days, when they don’t have much to eat and survive on one or two meals. Thanks to donations by well-wishers, they have not slept hungry.
Diana is a participant in the DREAMS programme. LVCT Health staff have been in touch with her through phone call and home visits. Diana and her mum also benefitted from the food donations by LVCT Health staff.
They were very grateful for the support as the food will sustain them for some time, while they look or alternative ways of living, as her mum is not able to go back to her routine of earning a living.
“Coping with multiple losses – home and income”
Mary Anyango*not her real name* (36) whose house was demolished in Kariobangi in Nairobi in May queues at the LVCT Health site with her red ‘Uhuru’ bag and waits for her turn to receive food under the relentless heat. She stands two meters away from the next beneficiary. Mary’s nose and mouth are well covered with her ‘kitenge’ mask, being alert of the effects of the novel coronavirus disease. She heard about the pandemic from the local radio station and the weekly text alerts by LVCT Health.
Mary and her family are uncertain about the future: “Our biggest concern is how we will continue to live without food, mainly in this moment of restrictions imposed by COVID-19.”
For residents of Korogocho and especially the Kariobangi land evictees fear is particularly great. Most of them are still dependent on food distribution to live, as they recover from loss of their homes, loss of incomes and increased risk of violence. Mary used to wash clothes in residential in the neighbouring Eastleigh area to feed her family, but the area had now been locked down.
She could no longer go to Eastleigh in search of work, which drained her financially and economically. Mary’s daughters have been at home since schools were closed. Mary fears for the future of her children as she does not have the money to print out the assignments that their school has sent. After receiving the food kit, Mary is a happy and grateful woman. “With this food, my daughters who are in the DREAMS program will have meals in the days to come,” she says. She is also grateful that DREAMS is still keeping true to its agenda of zero new HIV infections and promotion of a violent free society.
“Being pregnant has increased my fear of getting infected with COVID-19”
Silver (not her real name) has several casual jobs in her neighbourhood, like washing clothes, babysitting, and working in a kiosk to provide for her family. Since the onset of COVID-19, the opportunities for these casual jobs have reduced drastically. Furthermore, she is a single mother of a 3-year-old son currently pregnant and living with HIV hence, she is afraid of getting infected with COVID-19. Therefore, she does not go out regularly to search for income. Also, her partner lost his temporary work as a result of the pandemic.
Her partner visits her occasionally and provides food. Due to the prevailing situation, she struggles to get food and doesn’t look very healthy. Although she collects her medication regularly, she occasionally misses a dose when she doesn’t have food. Silver is also afraid of being evicted as she has one month’s house rent arrear. She depends on well-wishers for survival, hence the food will help her adhere to treatment and eventually improve her health.
Silver is very grateful for the food donations raised among LVCT Health staff. She gave a big smile for the support and said:
“Mungu awabariki na azidi kuwa onekania kwa kutukumbuka” (May God bless them and provide them with more by remembering us).
“Our mother can only come home once a month”
My name is Lavenda (Not her real name) I am 15years old and enrolled in DREAMS programme at Kawangware site. I live with my sibling in a single rental room in Kabiro Ward, Madiaba area. The area is known for high intake of alcohol, illegal drugs and sex work. We do stay alone since our mother does house help work and lives at her work place and only comes home once a month. Before COVID -19, my mother could send us money for our upkeep and even come over to see us but now this COVID -19 has messed up everything. She struggles to send us some money since the boss nowadays has reduced her salary and sometimes it delays. This has made us sometimes to drink tea only or go without food. My mother doesn’t come nowadays to see us due to this pandemic and if she decides to come, her boss threatens her not to go back again since she will bring coronavirus to the house.
This has made life miserable, but I do try to overcome all this situation by understanding my mother and pray to God so that this pandemic can end soon. I also follow the government directions and stay at home, keep social distance and wash my hands regularly with soap and water.
LVCT Health Dreams has been a good source of help to us even during this pandemic period by sending us more information about coronavirus through 1190, providing us with soap and sanitary pads. The food support you have given me will be of great help and will assist us for some time. I do appreciate and May God bless the whole Lvct health abundantly.
“I am the one who looks for ‘vibarua’ for our family of five”
My name is Saida, I am 19 years enrolled in DREAMS at Kawangware. I live in Gatina Ward. My parents are HIV positive and we are a family of 5. Both my parents are jobless and become sickly often. It’s a great challenge for us to get something to eat on a daily basis. This covid 19 has made things worse since the cost of living has not been the same again. Food has become expensive and getting it is hard. We do depend on church members and friends for survival and nowadays nobody supports us. I have a small baby eight months old and am the one who looks for ’ vibarua’ (casual jobs) for us to eat. DREAMS has helped us by sending us information through text messages on COVID-19, providing us with sanitary pads and soap. The food I have been given by Dreams will relieve us at least. I really appreciate being a DREAMS girl and May God reward you for helping me.
“We sell masks on the road, sometimes the sales are low”
My name is Gati, I am 16years old enrolled in DREAMS programme. I live in Kawangware 56. I am raised by a single parent in a family of six, my mum and 5 siblings. COVID -19 has really caused harm than good in my family as mum who only sits at the streets and waits for someone who can give her clothes to wash has now been forced to stay at home with nothing to put on the table. We are now buying and selling masks on the road for us to get something on the plate and sometimes the sales are low. DREAMS has really helped me and my family as it plays a big role in making me proceed with my studies by paying my school fees and giving me pads, soap, and even sending us text messages through 1190. This food support will really help me and my family during this pandemic.
“My Aunt’s small business of roasting maize has been affected”
My name is Mary, I am 18 years old and enrolled in DREAMS Programme. I live in Gatina Congo I am an orphan and live with my aunt and her 8 children. My Aunt used to have a small business of roasting maize by the roadside, but it has been affected by COVID-19. Since she is the breadwinner in the family, the whole family has been really affected. We struggle to get food and sometimes we go without food. We depend on well-wisher who may have sympathy on us and give us something. We struggle to overcome the situation, especially now that we do not have someone to look up to.
Nonetheless, I am following government instructions, staying at home, keeping social distance and washing my hands regularly with soap and water. DREAMS has really helped me by giving me pads, soap and sending information through 1190. I really appreciate and may God bless you so much.
“I am determined to raise my children”
Moline Andisi, a young woman from Ting’na, lives in a grass-thatched house with her three children. She is a determined young woman, who does casual jobs like washing clothes in order to fend for her family. The husband married another woman from the same village whom he stays with, away from Moline’s family.
LVCT Health visit to her home in June brightened up Moline. She received her donation and couldn’t help hide her joy:
‘Nimefurahi sana manake mimi hununua mafuta ya shilingi kumi, lakini hii lita moja nitatumia kwa muda mrefu sana.’ (I am so happy since I usually buy cooking oil worth 10/-, but this 1 litre will serve me a very long time.)
‘Nimeshukuru sana DREAMS kwa kunipa chakula, itanisaidia mimi na watoto wangu. Asanteni sana na mzidi kutusaidia.’ Thank you DREAMS (I am so grateful to DREAMS for giving me food. It will help me and my children. Thank you so much and continue to help us)
“My mother taught me how to make mats, but selling them is hard”
Violet lives with her mother who is sickly in Pap Rombe village in Migori County. During COVID-19, they make mats to earn an income. Violet got interested in mat making after her mother fell sick and could not walk long distances to sell the mats. Her mother taught Violet how to make mats using local material after schools closed due to COVID 19. Violet sells the mats for Ksh 200 each to get some money for food and other basic needs.
Not everyone in the village supports Violets work in support of the family. During a home visit, LVCT Health staff offered counselling and psycho-social support to Violet. Violet hawks the mats to support her mother provide for the family, they also rely on well-wishers.
A neighbour helps her mum to go for regular medical checkups at the hospital in Bomet town, about 90 Kms away. Violet and her mum were identified to get an LVCT Health COVID-19 food donation pack, which they received with much appreciation. “I was very happy to receive support from DREAMS office especially during this hard time of COVID-19. The support came in good time since the previous day I didn’t sell any mat so we hardly had anything to eat for our family. My mother appreciated the support so much.” said Violet
“We, the DREAMS team in Migori, moved from one household to the other, we came across different touching stories from the adolescent girls and young women and their families. One of our DREAMS beneficiary had no place to sleep with her family since their house was destroyed by the heavy rains. While having no shelter, it was also a big challenge for the family to get food. The children relied on their mother, after they lost their father in the year 2018.
We visited two DREAMS girls who grow up in the same family. These girls are orphans who were adopted by a single mother. Getting food is a major challenge in the family and their house is in bad condition too. The food donations were a big boost to the two families.
LVCT Health is proud to have seen the impact of this noble and generous activity. We have noticed an improvement in some of our outcomes as we strive to ensure that we do not get any new HIV cases. We are calling on our donors and well-wishers to contribute and support the vulnerable populations. Follow this link to make a donation https://lvcthealth.org/donate