Manchester researcher helping to tackle coronavirus in Kenya’s slums

A new initiative designed by Professor Diana Mitlin of The University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute, alongside long-term collaborators SDI Kenya, is helping to address the enormous challenges of dealing with Covid-19 in informal settlements. 

The global spread of Covid-19 poses specific risks for the billion people who live in informal urban settlements in the global South. A range of factors make transition of the virus more likely, and strategies to tackle it extremely difficult to implement. Responses such as social distancing and isolation are almost impossible in extremely dense, low income settlements.

The new initiative - funded by The University of Manchester and the Global Challenges Research Fund - will map community responses, develop solutions that work in specific local environments, and rapidly share its findings within Kenya and beyond.

Over three months, the projects aims to monitor 400 communities via an accessible, online platform. It will pilot community handwashing stations in areas with little running water, as well as community isolation shacks suitable for a variety of different contexts within a settlement.

Working with SDI Kenya, Professor Diana Mitlin hopes to address the challenges of Covid-19 in Kenya’s slums head on.

There is an urgent need to identify and care for people who are not well, to reduce the risks for the rest of the population and to understand and act on the economic emergency - however, this will only happen effectively if it’s done hand in hand with the communities living in informal settlements.
Professor Diana Mitlin

SDI is a global network of federations of women-led savings schemes, with affiliates in 34 countries of the global south. Their members are concentrated in urban informal settlements.

SDI Kenya are leading efforts to tackle Covid-19 within the SDI global network. They have already established a network of community mobilisers building on their work to date, and have been invited to join the Ministry of Health’s Task Force on Community Engagement for Covid-19 ensuring the speedy dissemination of their information and facilitating follow-up.

Jack Makau, director of Slum Dwellers International Kenya, said "SDI Kenya periodically profiles slums in Kenya’s cities and towns as the Government census doesn’t recognise and disaggregate population by slum geographies. Support from The University of Manchester is allowing them to build a community-based Covid monitoring system, filling a gap in the ability of government to track and plan response in the slums. This is important given that in the last week of April, there were 5000 Covid-19 testing kits in a country with over 51 million citizens.”

The latest insights and results from the initiative can be found at Muungano wa Wanavijiji.

The University of Manchester has a growing list of scientists and academics who are either working on aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak or can make a valuable contribution to the national discourse. Please check out our COVID-19 expert media group. 

Our people are also working together and with partners from across society to understand coronavirus (COVID-19) and its wide-ranging impacts on our lives. Make a gift today to support the University’s response to coronavirus or visit the University’s volunteering website to lend a helping hand.

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