Hillary Omala Represents Informal Settlements on NTV Kenya Panel

CFK executive director, Hillary Omala, discussed the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 for residents of informal settlements during a panel discussion broadcast on NTV Kenya on April 28.

Moderated by Victor Kripop, the panel also included Diana Gichengo, campaigns manager for Amnesty International and Dr. Kevin Osuri, chairman of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU).

During the discussion, Hillary emphasized how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted those living below the poverty line and working hand-to-mouth jobs.

“COVID-19 has been detrimental to social groups considered as vulnerable,” Hillary said. “That is young people, people living in informal settlements, [and] people with disabilities.”

Over the last 20 years, CFK has worked directly with many of these vulnerable groups, developing evidence-based, sustainable solutions to address their unique health, education, social, and economic needs.

In 2020, CFK partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) to lead coronavirus sample collection and contact tracing efforts in Kibera.

Our water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) efforts have also helped alleviate financial burdens and curb the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19 in Kibera. Due to our large-scale impact in Kibera, the CDC named CFK its lead implementing partner for WASH in Kenya, and we will be expanding many of our services to additional informal settlements starting this year.

More Than a Health Crisis

While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in one of the most severe global public health emergencies in recent history, it has also exacerbated existing social and economic inequalities.

During the pandemic, a study by the Population Council found that approximately 80% of people living in informal settlements around Nairobi experienced a partial or complete loss of income. Three-quarters of informal settlement residents reported skipping meals due to increased food insecurity.

“Until we recognize that there is an interface between a health crisis, an economic crisis, a human[itarian] crisis, and a social crisis, we are not likely to be able to solve these issues,” Hillary said. “Seventy percent of people who live in informal settlements are truly skilled…but what they do not have is income security…They depend on factories, they depend on companies, they depend on construction work. You had this statement going around of people saying ‘I would rather die of COVID-19 than of hunger,’ and it is a reality.”

Learn more about CFK’s COVID-19 response and watch the panel discussion in full.

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