As a rule, we like to share positive stories and the beauty and success of the children we support. But we also know it’s essential we share with our community the challenges, situations and risks our partners and children face. Recently our Kenyan program partner Alfajiri sent us a report about how COVID-19 is affecting their...Read now
While a large majority of the world ‘shelters in place’ the street children of Nairobi in Kenya are facing enormous risks to their safety. With a lack of safe shelter, food and access to water, these children are amongst the most at-risk people in the world.
Numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infection are still low in Kenya but the country is in enforced curfews. As of the 23rd of April, there have been 14 deaths from the virus.
While there have been closures in the city the large slums have not been shut down. Local police are using excessive violence to enforce lockdowns and curfews, reportedly including the fatal shooting of multiple teenage street children, some as young as 13 years old.
There are reports that unfortunately there is a lack of understanding of the COVID-19 virus with a widespread belief amongst Kenyans that the virus only affects Caucasians.
Partner Update: Alfajiri
Alfajiri is a community based not-for-profit organisation providing outreach support, rehabilitation programs and assessment services for the street children of Nairobi. There are two main programs run through Alfajiri:
Alfajiri Street Kids Art is a weekly art workshop where street children can come and participate in art sessions to tell their story in a safe and supportive environment. The workshops provide opportunities for the children to become familiar with Alfajiri and receive encouragement and support to begin the transition off of the streets if they wish.
The Alfajiri Drop-in Centre (DIC) provides a space where children come to feel safe and find respite from the streets. They have the opportunity to participate in art workshops and to express their selves and their creativity while also being assessed, referred to rehabilitation programs, enrolled in school and helped to find a safe and caring home. The centre also provides financial support for families and guardians trying to support the child.
One of Alfrajiri’s other major funders has given notification that their payments may be put on hold from June onwards as a result of the funders financial situation which has been seriously impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Drop-in Centre Update:
Although officially closed, two Alfajiri staff remain at the Drop-in Centre to provide support for existing children and families in Alfajiri care. However, all intake and assessment programs have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.
There are currently no new children from the slums attending the DIC, only children who are in BTO and Alfrajiri care. Many of these children are home from boarding schools that have been closed down, feeling lost, hungry and are unsure of what to do.
For safety, only one person is permitted to enter the DIC compound at a time with sanitisation stations established at the main entrance.
The DIC is also supporting surrounding families in need of food/rental assistance. Food parcels are being handed out to those coming and asking for help. The funds and resources for these are coming from:
- Beyond the Orphanage crisis fund generated through the Emergency Child Safety Appeal
- Dry food provided by the local community
- A local gentleman who has donated funds to assist with food.
Children in the slums:
The Nairobi street children living in the slums are facing enormous risks to their immediate safety as local police continue to enforce curfews with extreme and often fatal violence.
Alfajiri normally reports on these children via social workers who work in the drop-in centre.
In the absence of the programs running at the DIC, reporting on the children is happening two ways:
- A local gentleman from a Hotel comes and cooks and feeds the children in the base. He provides a report to Alfrajiri of the welfare of the children who come regularly and are known to Alfajiri staff
- Breakfast is provided by another local woman who cooks and feeds children in the base. She provides a similar report to Alfajiri
Alfajiri is doing everything in their power to protect the children in their care, and to assist the local street children, however, the risk to child safety is very high.
In a recent report to BTO, Alfajiri wrote:
Not only is there a lack of protection for street children in the face of COVID-19, there is aggression against them which is intensified as police and others use the coronavirus restrictions as an excuse to starve beat and kill.
“Desperation deepens as many feeding programs and organizations are closing their doors. Children sent home from school…are flooding the streets and slum areas, as poor parents struggle to cope or just let their children go.
When the pandemic is over we want to send our children back to schools and training. For now, they are at great risk and we don’t want to lose them.
BTO Child Protection Committee
Tension and widespread substance abuse within the slum make it an extremely dangerous place for children with high rates of abuse and violence.
Beyond the Orphanage has established an Emergency Child Protection Committee which is providing legal, emotional and logistical support to the Alfajiri team who are trying to navigate the current situation.
Through the COVID-19 Emergency Child Safety Appeal, we will continue to support our partners respond to emerging risks and continue to provide essential services including food, shelter and safety support.
Every little bit counts when it comes to supporting our partners and keeping these kids safe. If you would like to help you can donate to the COVID-19 Emergency Child Protection Appeal here.