Our Covid-19 Response
Updated: May 19
Kenya reported our first case of Covid on March 13th and is still relatively early in “the curve” with 465 confirmed cases (as of May 3rd) and 24 reported deaths. However, limited testing rates suggest that many more cases may be present but unreported / undetected.
The government has cautiously decided to implement various “lock-down” measures over the subsequent weeks, including ordering schools closed indefinitely, requesting businesses to shift to remote work, and a dusk-to-dawn curfew. In addition, travel restrictions were put in place limiting travel into/out of Nairobi county. These precautions are an important step in “flattening the curve” and preventing the transmission of this virus – a welcome response.
However, the socio-economic situation in Kenya makes the crisis more precarious. Estimates suggest that ~80% of the population is employed in the informal sector with many relying on daily income to afford their basic survival. In addition, 60% of Nairobi’s population lives in densely populated informal settlements (the communities where Kidogo works) where physical distancing is effectively impossible. The closure of the economy has already resulted in skyrocketing unemployment, reduced incomes in the informal sector, and increased prices of food staples – a triple threat for a country with a history of violet protests and social unrest.
As a result of this situation, Kidogo has taken a number of steps to respond to the current crisis, and ensure we are supporting our stakeholders through the economic shock it has caused. In particular, we have been guided by 3 key priorities during this time:
1) Safeguard health & wellbeing of our Kidogo Family during the pandemic: Specifically, we want to ensure Kidogo Kids, Mamapreneurs, and Staff are safe & well-supported during this crisis. Within the first few days of the crisis, Kidogo provided handwashing packs (with the support of our partners at Lifebuoy) and emergency food packs (with our partners at Onn the Way supermarket) to 600+ families in our network. In addition, we implemented work-from-home policies for all of our staff, and provided additional airtime bundles to support continuity of our work remotely.
2) Ensure young children are reaching their full potential despite crisis: This crisis does not mean that children’s development is ‘paused’ or less important. In fact, experience with previous crises suggests children are much more vulnerable in these times due to poorer nutrition, increased abuse rates, and limited opportunities for stimulation. Kidogo’s aim is to ensure children can continue to develop in a safe & stimulating environment within the current context of lockdowns and social distancing. The UN Secretary General António Guterres recently published a letter entitled “Protect Our Children” focused on ensuring children are protected from shocks in food, safety, and education.
Kidogo has shaped our response accordingly: First, we reoriented our Centres of Excellence department to developing and distributing “ECD Play Packs” for 2500+ children in the Kidogo network. These play-packs included a colouring & activity book, a recommended daily routine (to support parents) and various play materials including manipulatives and play-doh to stimulate children’s imagination. Children who were assessed to be malnourished or at-risk of stunting are also receiving supplements that ensure they are able to continue to grow during these challenging times.
At the same time, members of our team came together to form a new “Digital Caregiving” initiative focused on supporting parents at home with young children during the crisis. Using various digital platforms including SMS, Whatsapp, Radio, and Social Media, we’ve been developing and distributing tips, tricks, and resources for parents on a regular basis.
Finally, we’ve not forgotten about our Mamapreneurs. Our social franchising team has pivoted to provide conditional cash transfers (temporary income) to Mamapreneurs to make up for for lost income, ensure they can continue to pay rent during the shut-down, and can put food on their tables. In exchange, Mamapreneurs agree to stay in touch with parents of their centres, and support the distribution of play-packs in their community. Our franchising officers have also moved towards digital mentorship conducting coaching through phone and WhatsApp.
3) Strengthen & position Kidogo for “new normal”: Beyond our response activities during the crisis, our team is working on building our capacity and positioning for what the Post-Covid world may look like. For example, a number of our team members are completing an online training program with our partners at the African Management Initiative focused on building skills around personal productivity, team work, and etc. At the same time, we are investing in developing our training & services to better support our Mamapreneurs and families after the crisis. More to come on this in the future.
Overall, this period has been challenging & uncertain for Kidogo just like most other organizations. We are privileged to have partners, team members, and customers who we’ve been able to work with positively to protect one another from the downside that this crisis brings. We truly believe that together we can find the silver-linings that prepare us to be a stronger, more resilient, and more effective organization in the future.
If you’d like to support our work during this critical time, please make a donation to our COVID Response Fund and spread the word about our work through your networks.
Kidogo Management Team