By Zamzam Abdikader
My name is Zamzam Abdikadir and I am based in Kakuma refugee camp. Kakuma is located in the north-western side of Kenya and as per UNHCR statistics done on 29th February 2020, there are 194,914 registered refugees living in the camp.
In regards to the current COVID-19 situation, there is no confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case in the camp. However, I suspect that the refugees are not well prepared to fight against the virus due to some of the myths and misconceptions that some of the communities believe. This includes, for example, that the virus cannot survive under a high temperature environment, and that some herbal teas like honey, ginger, and black tea can prevent the virus.
So far, what has been done? The UNHCR has suspended all of its activities, including resettlement, repatriation and UNHCR field-based counseling until further notice. Also, the Kenyan government suspended its activities, like giving movement passes to the refugees though refugees can still move from the camp to cities. Curfew has also been imposed by the national government, from 7pm to 5am, in Kakuma Camp.
Primary and secondary schools and also universities/colleges (online classes) have been closed until further notice and students have no other alternative or options available to continue their studies while staying home. Only university online students like Jesuit WordWide Learning Program(JWL) are able to continue their studies at home due to the contribution of data bundles to their students.
Organizations, like FilmAid International, are giving information to the refugees and to the refugee leaders so that they share it with their communities. However, refugees are still unable to implement those prevention measures against the virus because there is a lack of hand washing facilities and soap for refugees to maintain hygiene and sanitation. This lack of established facilities for preparation of COVID-19 has created much fear because, if the virus reaches the camp, it is also overcrowded. Prices of essential goods mostly bought by the refugees have also gone up significantly.
Social distancing guidelines are not effectively working since refugees share common services and resources such as water, market and food distribution where people gather in large numbers. All of that, refugees are wondering how long it will take for this virus to end so we can return to what life was before.