Helping hand to marginalised communities

Monday, September 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Mercy Mukeni receives soap from volunteers for distribution to beneficiries. TOP: Sarah Mathew receiving donation from an IECE staff. Photo/PD/George Onyango

At the age of 20 and with a diminutive frame, Sarah Mathew looks like a girl who has just completed primary school.

She has a headscarf and on her back, a one-year-old. One would think she is carrying her sibling, but that is her daughter, Stephanie Akinyi. 

Unemployed and a hustler, the single mother has found it hard to make ends meet, especially for her toddler, with whom they live in a six by six shack in Mathare.

She is among hundreds of slum dwellers who converged at the Kariobangi Holy Trinity Church to receive fortnight food donations. For Sarah, this aid couldn’t have come at a better time. 

“I am grateful to these people because I was in dire straits. Life would have been unimaginable and I hope they will continue with the same spirit,” says Sarah, who in addition to receiving foodstuff that include cereals, sugar and flour has also been given a mattress, soap and water container.

Mercy Wanjiru 47, a widow with four children, was all smiles as she received her ration.

“I had gone for days without food during the lockdown and just as the situation was becoming too desperate to bear, these people came to our rescue.

Today I receive my second assistance,” said Mercy whose work as domestic laundry worker has seen her work taken over by clients currently at home. She tried her hand at food hawking business, but had second thoughts due to risks and exposure to Covid-19. 

“This has been a rescue moment for us. We had been hopeless after all sources of income became apparently unavailable and we truly thank those who have thought about us,’ says Joseph Thuo from shanty 3c, who was facing challenges in feeding his family after the demand for his services at a Jua Kali shed diminished due to coronavirus.

This drive was the handiwork of the Integrated Education for Community Empowerment (IECE), an NGO that addresses issues facing young people, women and children in informal settlements and rural areas.

Sarah Mathew  receiving donation from an IECE  staff. Photo/PD/George Onyango

They partnered with Malteser International, a humanitarian relief agency that provides relief and recovery during and following conflicts and disasters.

It targeted people who had barely received any interventions and through community leadership, the organisers were able to identify the most deserving of the help. 

Mercy Mukeni, IECE secretary says that whilst it brings a big smile to her face when she sees at least one problem getting off the baskets of the most vulnerable during this pandemic, it has also been a depressing experience to see the struggles most people are going through. 

During the background check, they found that the nearly 1,000 beneficiaries from the programme had serious health issues including heart problems, diabetes, and HIV/Aids.

“Seven beneficiaries have died from these per-existing conditions. It is heart-wrenching,” she says.

Other dire situations facing these people include evictions from their houses as they are unable to raise rent.

Martin Schoemburg, the Malteser International Kenya Country Coordinator, the programme has been revealing since it targeted the neediest and the vulnerable in the society.

“Whilst it is true the epidemic has affected everyone, it is also true that the hardest hit has been the lowest in the society especially those living in the informal settlements,” he says.  

Formed in 1999 as a faith-based organisation, but later registered as an NGO in 2013, IECE runs programmes including Child Protection Project and Nilinde (protect me), to offer friendly and safe environment to 14,000 vulnerable children living in slums; No One Out to promote health, social and economic inclusion of vulnerable young population in five slums; Nisitu, which engages men and boys in girl-centred programming; Jikaze Utafaulu for business support and incubation; and vocational training services.

Jacinta Atieno, IECE chairperson, says the last two months has been a fulfilling experience supporting people with chronic illnesses, widows, widowers, persons with disabilities as well as child headed households.

“The project was divided into three main parts helping eight to 15 members of the family that would take them for two weeks as well as soap for sanitation and water storage devices. We also gave out mattresses and sanitary towels,” she says. 

She hopes more funds can flow in to help continue with the programme  before the curve is flattened.

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