Providing vital support during Covid
An Impending Catastrophe
Covid-19 impacted all of us, but the effects were worst for the most vulnerable in our communities. In Kenya poor health, the cost of healthcare, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and malnutrition meant that, for many children and their families, the odds were already stacked against them. Lockdown measures meant that basic food, hygiene parcels and social support were painfully out of reach. In April 2020 our day centres and school projects were shut down due to Covid-19. Public gatherings, including our feeding projects, were banned, and our social workers, who provide vital support and meals during visits to our children, could only give support by phone.
Several agencies attempted to distribute food but this led to riots and violence, so the government banned public feeding programmes.
Negotiating a solution which was acceptable to the government and the police, met the new social distancing regulations, kept our social workers safe, and dealt with the internal travel constraints, was a challenge, to say the least.
Delivering Targeted Help
KCC was approached by local administrations in the areas where we had feeding programs. They requested that we help them feed the neediest families from their areas. We agreed to team up with them and the police and were able to feed over 2,000 extremely deprived children and their guardians. These were families who could not afford to have a decent meal. Families who would otherwise have to go to sleep hungry during the lockdown. The administrators helped KCC identify the neediest families to benefit from the food donations.
We used two solutions:
- A voucher system that entitled each family to collect an emergency box with a month’s supply of essential food, household, and hygiene items from a local grocery store.
- Direct distribution where there are no local shops. Our team purchased maize flour, rice, lentils, various types of beans, vegetables, oil, sugar, soap and masks, packed them in large sacks and distributed them to the families, many of whom walked several kilometres to get to the distribution point.
A measurable Impact
The project was a huge success under challenging circumstances and provided a lifeline for the children. Each distribution event was attended by the local Chief and the police. After seeing the initial benefits, they asked us to support many more extremely needy children in other desperately poor rural communities. As a result, the project was expanded fourfold to provide some 3,000 emergency boxes, with each box supporting a family of 4 vulnerable children. The beneficiaries of the food donations were across 4 different counties in Kenya: Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Nyeri and Machakos counties.
Each box, costing about £20, contained sufficient food, household, and hygiene items to support a family of five (typically 4 children and a guardian) for a month. It included maize flour, rice, lentils, various types of beans, vegetables, oil, sugar, soap, and masks.
We monitored each family to check on any changes to their circumstances and to assess the benefits of the programme. The benefits we found included:
- reduced child malnutrition
- fewer health problems
- improved behaviour
- fewer children attracted to petty crime
- improved family environment with less risk of child abuse.
We continued to provide support until schools and day centres re-opened in 2021.