Kenya: SHOFCO Battles Covid-19 Disinformation

The Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a grassroots organisation in Nairobi that provides social services for those in urban slums as well as education and leadership opportunities for girls and women, is combatting Covid-19 related disinformation in Kenya.

According to the founder of the organisation, Kennedy Odede, ‘When the [Covid-19] pandemic first began, there were rumours that black people were immune to Covid-19 and that this was not a disease that would hit Africa. Though Africa has not been as hard hit as other continents, Covid-19 is now [here]’. Odede said, ‘While some of those claims about immunity may have been made as jokes, it still sparked a threat that Africans may not take the situation seriously. This is real. [Covid-19] does not understand if you are white or black. And, slums with their close quarters, lack of sanitation and absence of health facilities are particularly vulnerable’.

To combat Covid-19 disinformation, the founder of SHOFCO said that his organisation had created a disinformation tracking project that allows community members report rumours about Covid-19, which SHOFCO volunteers analyse and then respond to. Odede said that SHOFCO had set up more than 100 handwashing stations in the slums of Nairobi, staffed by volunteers who instruct people to wash their hands when they enter and exit the slums, to help keep Covid-19 out of those areas.

Odede noted that the handwashing stations have also become strategic points where correct and helpful information about Covid-19 is given out by SHOFCO volunteers, along with soap, hand sanitisers and pamphlets that contain public health information about the disease. Odede also stated that the handwashing stations rely on aerial water systems that SHOFCO pioneered, which won the 2018 Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Overhead pipes – rather than ground-level pipes that are often tampered with or stepped on and whose compromised integrity allows sewage to seep in – carry  water to the handwashing stations. ‘In Kibera alone, more than 117,400 people have used these handwashing stations’, Odede said.

The organisation has also set up six clinics in Kibera and is bulk-purchasing food essentials such as cooking oil and rice, which it offers at deep discounts. The organisation is also providing meals to children of school age, even as schools remain closed.

Source: Fast Company

Photo source: Gea79on


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