It is easy to say “Clean your hands often, use soap and water, or an alcohol - based hand sanitizer. It is easy to say maintain social distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing. It is easy to say wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth and it is easy to say cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze and stay home.
I live in the slums, I buy water for use, sometimes soap is a luxury, and so I can’t even dream of an alcohol - based hand sanitizer; this, I only see from afar. I can hardly afford it.
You tell me to keep a distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing? Yes I would love to, but I need to be with my neighbor. She is the only one who understands me. We have come a long way. When I don’t have any meal, we share hers and when she doesn’t have, we share mine. We have been in tough times together. No one has been with me when I am sick except her. I can’t leave her when she is coughing. This is the time she needs me most. Therefore, we shall fight the cough together. After all, we share our utensils and if I distance myself from her one of us won’t eat.
I would love to wear a mask. I really believe the pandemic is deadly. However, I can’t afford it. I haven’t had a meal for the last two days. The KES. 50/= for buying a mask would be enough for me to buy something to feed my empty stomach. I am torn between the two. Should I die from hunger or prevent the disease?
Yes, I have been told severally not to touch my eyes, nose or mouth; and to cover my nose and mouth with my bent elbow or a tissue when I cough or sneeze. I will not touch my eyes, nose or mouth, but I am too weak to even raise my bent elbow to cover my nose and mouth. I said I haven’t had any meal for the last two days. Tissue? I don’t use tissue. I can’t afford it and I only have one handkerchief which you say I shouldn’t use as it is unhygienic.
You tell me to “stay home” while I have children to feed; I buy water for use and pay something in order to use the public toilet. Life can’t continue with me staying home.
I have been educated and I appreciate. I know what I am supposed to do and I would love to, but the circumstances surrounding me can’t allow me to. I appreciate the education but I need to be empowered, if I can’t be provided for and I will take preventive measures. After all, who wants to die? I wouldn’t love to. I would love to get out of this life but something has to be done. I am ready, I am willing, help me out!
As I visited a slum area during this pandemic, my heart was overwhelmed to see the needs in the slums. They have been educated on the preventive measures which they can hardly adhere to because of the circumstances surrounding them. The first day I visited I took face masks, and they were glad but I could see needy faces of those who were expecting to receive basic needs. As I distributed the face masks, keeping the social distance was a challenge as everyone wanted to grab, including the children. The second time was distribution of maize flour and keeping the distance was a bit of a challenge though I had to come up with a way of queuing which made it easier. The needs in the slums are enormous, and we have to provide for them especially during this pandemic when they are in dire need. “Provide for me & I will take preventive measures”. Life in the slums!