To prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Government of Kenya called for the closure on March 22nd of social venues such as sporting grounds, bars and hotels, with the exception of takeaway (carry-out) services. Movement in and out of the country is restricted, and a curfew from 7 pm to 5 am was put in place on March 25, 2020.
Businesses owned by Kakuma refugee traders are feeling the impact of this polices,and this week, I met Machar MalithGeu, a businessman who owns a video hall in Hongkong market where many youths gather each day to watch movies and games. The video hall is a major source of income for Machar and his family.
“I am affected by this pandemic as much as the people who are confirmed positive with coronavirus. I depend on the money I collect from my video hall to support myself and my family, but recently, my business was forced to close due to the attempts to curb the pandemic. Currently, I am not getting any cash to supplement the little food provided by the World Food Program. My life is getting hard but I believe that health is the first priority I can’t ignore the rules and continue to run my business as usual. I just pray this pandemic will be over soon.’’
Mohamed is another businessman in HongHong, and he shares Malith’s concerns:”My fear as a business person is the travel ban. I heard that all travel out of Kakuma has been halted. This poses a great challenge for us.There will be nowhere we can purchase our stocks, and so our customers in the community are going to suffer as well. I currently have few items in my shop, but if it to the stock finishes, I am not sure where to go for more stock.Previously I use to go down country for supplies.”
Mohamed’s job involves handling a lot of currency as well as mobile phones, which he charges for a fee. One of his fears is that he might be infected by the virus due to contamination of these objects.
Businesses owned by Kakuma refugee traders are feeling the impact of this lockdown polices, for this past weeks and months to come/KANERE
Restaurant businesses area also feeling the pinch in Kakuma. Mary Athiei runs a small hotel in Kakuma 1 opposite the main hospital. However, following the notice from the Ministry of Health, she was forced to close down: ‘‘I have just closed my restaurant. I heard Kenya’s Minister for Health announce that there will be no public gathering and that bars and restaurants are to remain closed. My hotel is small and many people were only coming to eat direct at the hotel, but not to buy and carry the food with them to their homes. I am no longer getting any customers.’’
Another young woman explains the challenge of the school closure:‘I am a student in Vision Secondary school in Kakuma 4preparing to do my national exam for Form 4. My biggest worries brought by Coronavirus are about health. I am sure we don’t have enough drugs or medicine here in the refugee camp. If this disease comes to the camp, I fear it will bring great destruction. The disease would be disseminated easily because most people are reluctant to follow preventive measures circulated on TV or radio. But secondly, I fear for my education. I don’t think this pandemic will be over within this year, so it is like adding an additional year of schooling before I can take my final exams and graduate.”
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