It is early Friday morning at Garissa Referral Hospital, the main COVID-19 vaccination centre in Garissa town, where infection rates have recently been increasing. In an open-air shelter, with a wooden roof to provide shade from the harsh sun, two masked health workers set up a cool box full of vaccine vials and syringes, and a laptop to register people coming for vaccination. There is a long bench for people to sit while waiting for their shots, but it is mostly empty.
It is a brutally hot, dry and dusty day in Garissa town, in the arid region of North-Eastern Kenya, when Kaha Hassan brings her one-year-old son Sudeys to Medina Health Centre. Two consecutive rains have failed in the region and only a few scrubby bushes and skinny animals have survived. Goats with visible ribcages roam the grounds of the health centre, searching for something to eat. The morning sun beats down on the sandy ground, drying it out even more.
As the school day finishes in Lodwar, Turkana, a group of boys runs out onto a sandy football pitch between their classrooms. There is a flash of colour beneath their pink school shirts, which some of them peel off to reveal international football club shirts beneath. They run up and down the pitch with tremendous energy, gesturing at each other. Finally, 13-year-old Ezra, wearing an Atletico Madrid t-shirt, gets a clear shot at the goal. He lines it up and shoots. The ball swerves past the goalkeeper and lands behind the goalpost, kicking up a small cloud of dust as it lands. Ezra throws up his arms in celebration. But there is little or no sound from the players, all of whom are fully or partially deaf.
Sixteen-year-old Christine Aleper sits in a Grade 4 English class at Namoruputh Primary School, in Turkana County. It is a hot, dry afternoon and a sudden gust of wind blows dust through the open windows. Christine is much taller than the other children in the class, who range from 9 to 11-years old, and the only one wearing a blue and white school uniform. But the fact that she is learning English at all is remarkable, given her background. Standing by the board, her teacher, Hellen, explains the different types of articles – a, an, the – and when to use them. She asks for examples and Christina stands and reads out: “a ball, an apple, the sun.”
It is late morning in Namoruputh Primary School in Turkana, hot and dusty despite the wintertime. The school is close to the border with Uganda, which is lined by a ridge of high mountains on the horizon where rainclouds gather. Behind a classroom, a large satellite dish has been installed, surrounded by a makeshift fence of thorny branches, gathered from the bushes that punctuate the sandy ground.
Inside, teacher Mwangangi begins an unusual science lesson. He draws a diagram of a flower on the blackboard, but instead of telling the children the names of the parts of the flower, or handing out a textbook, he asks them to Google it. The children bend over their distinctive lime-coloured tablets, searching for images with the right information. Cecilia Akai, 13, raises her arm “Teacher, teacher,” she says. He gives her a chalk and she walks to the board, where she writes ‘stigma’ on the correct part of the flower. After naming all the parts of the flower, the teacher asks the children to research their functions and they break into groups, searching and discussing the results.
In the small garden behind Dandora 1 Health Centre, a tent and table has been set up for COVID-19 vaccinations. Health workers sit at the table checking IDs and registering local residents who have turned up to get their jab – a mixture of teachers, health workers and older people. A small queue has formed, with people sitting on a bench or plastic chairs as they await their turn.
Dandora is home to both a densely packed urban community and one of the largest rubbish dumps in Africa. Outside the health centre, the sounds of children playing can be heard, along with boda boda motorbikes and the Friday call to prayers. A large graffiti mural shows a doctor with stethoscope advising residents to wear a mask, wash their hands, and keep physical distance, under the slogan “komesha korona” (stop coronavirus).
12-year-old Diana Anyango lives in Korogocho, the fourth largest informal settlement (or urban slum) in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s a place where people live in close quarters, often without power or access to running water. Makeshift houses constructed from wood and iron are raised precariously two or three floors high. Clothes are hung out to dry on old electricity cables, stretched across narrow alleyways. From a wooden balcony, Diana looks out over the rusted rooftops to the formal houses and tower blocks beyond the settlement. The street below, usually busy with vendors and “boda-boda” motorbikes, is half empty. A few pedestrians walk past wearing face masks.
Buxton Gitimu, 11, lives with his family in Huruma informal settlement, Nairobi. One of his favourite things to do is playing football with his brother Joseph. The boys are very close. Together, they race around a football field at Salama Primary School with their coach, practicing tackles and other moves. Afterwards, they do keepy uppies, counting to see how long they can keep the ball in the air. The football field is normally full of children, but today it is empty because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading “Children with disabilities learn through sport during COVID-19”→
It is a scorching hot morning in Turkana County, northern Kenya. The ground is dry and sandy, punctuated with small gorse bushes and occasional trees. Tall, thin termite nests point like fingers at the cloudless sky. In some places, dust swirls in miniature whirlwinds. Yellow locusts swarm around the remaining vegetation, stragglers from the recent locust invasion. It seems barely habitable, but people survive here, herding hardy animals like camels and goats, and moving around in search of pasture.
Naipa village, however, is like an oasis in the sandy almost-desert. A solar powered water system pumps groundwater up into overhead tanks on scaffolding, from which it flows down to taps in a school and seven villages. At the tap nearest the pump, a group of women and children have gathered to collect water. The Turkana are tall and striking. In rural areas, they still wear traditional clothing – beautifully coloured and patterned ‘leso’ wraps, headscarfs for balancing water containers and bead necklaces. They smile and laugh as they fill up their buckets and jerrycans. A boy walks past’ leading a line of well-fed camels to the water trough.
It is early morning at Sindo Main Beach in Homa Bay when the fishing boats arrive. The smell of fish is already strong in the air. White egret birds circle and call out, looking to steal a meal. As a new boat arrives, a man wading waist deep in the water shows it where to land. Dozens of women race forward to get their buckets in the boat, reserving a portion of the catch. Fishermen scoop up large handfuls of tiny omena fish, quickly filling up the buckets. Most women hand over 1,000 shillings ($10 USD) but a few do not. For these women, there is an understanding that they will meet the fisherman later for sex.