"We have distributed soap everywhere," says Mishi Rama Mbete. The 48-year-old is sitting on a cardboard box in front of her mud hut, her hands folded in her lap. She wears the face mask correctly over her mouth and nose. "Corona is a terrible disease that has no cure yet. We are the medicine, our behaviour is, like when we wash our hands many times a day." Mbete is one of 30 Community Health Volunteers from the informal settlements of Majengo and Mzambarauni who, on behalf of Participatory Slum Upgrading Project (PSUP) and its collaborative partner, the Community-based Organization Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), tackled the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, going door-to-door for weeks in awareness campaigns. She, among others, distributed hand sanitizers and soap, explaining the importance of washing hands properly, wearing a facemask, keeping social distance when possible, and recognising the symptoms of COVID-19 in time. Suspected cases of infections were referred to government facilities for further tests and follow-ups.
The awareness campaign is part of an emergency response package that PSUP and SHOFCO launched at the onset of the Corona outbreak in Kenya in March 2020. The aim, from the very beginning, was to prevent a looming disaster in the slums. No one was to be left behind during the pandemic. Together with the County Government of Kilifi and the communities in the PSUP project region, both partners set up 20 handwashing stations, maintained by men and women from the communities for a small additional income, to protect local people from the virus. The Community Health Volunteers were trained by the County Government's Department of Health to use their expertise to conduct education and provide up-to-date emergency assistance.