COVID-19 diaries: Normal life in abnormal times in Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya

By: 
CARE
Muridi Zuberi, originally from Somalia, has lived in Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya since 2004

25-year-old Muridi Zuberi is the first born of seven children, originally from Lower Juba, Somalia. He first arrived in Kenya in 2004 with his uncle. Muridi is married with a six week old baby. He now lives in Dadaab refugee complex, home to approximately 234,000 refugees.

Life under lockdown

My name is Muridi Zuriberi from Dadaab – Dagahaley refugee camp in northern Kenya. Before the outbreak of COVID-19 it was normal to see people interacting with each other; shaking hands, and the streets were full with people who were involved in a range of business. Now, things have completely changed.

Social and physical distance is now observed, handshaking is no longer a norm for fear of contracting the potentially deadly COVID-19. A lot of people used to go to the markets to conduct business, but due to the virus no non-essential movement is allowed. People are no longer able to go to Masjids, Madrasas, or churches, and celebrations like weddings have stopped for fear of contamination.

Muridi Zuriberi

Before the pandemic we were free to interact with others and conduct our daily activities without fear. Neighbours no longer visit each other, and our society has been completely distracted by the threat of this disease. In order to protect ourselves and our loved ones we have to be careful while conducting our daily life so that we can be safe.

My biggest worry is what happens if it reaches this camp, where there are not enough health care facilities to cope.

What worries me most is the way the disease kills. When I listen to the news around the globe a lot of lives are being lost daily. And this is amongst people who have got everything they need in life, but still the disease plays its part. My biggest worry is what happens if it reaches this camp, where there are not enough health care facilities to cope. The majority of the people in the camp live below the poverty line and there is a need for mass awareness to educate the refugees on the COVID-19 disease, which globally has already claimed more than 280,000 lives. If COVID-19 reaches Dadaab, it is going to be a big problem and increase the challenges for people already living in extreme poverty.

The pandemic has already really affected my livelihood.Life has become really hard...people can only have two meals a day instead of three

The pandemic has already really affected my livelihood. I used to work as casual laborer, but now I am jobless due to coronavirus. We have to stay at home according to the government directives on the pandemic. Life has become really hard. Businesses are collapsing so even getting basic need items has become hard. We are now forced to adjust to a situation where people can only have two meals a day instead of three.

What is needed

We need more water which is safe for domestic use and more public awareness around the disease and measures to be taken in case one is infected. Ideally, we should be provided with protective gear such as face mask. We should also have quarantine centres to isolate those suspected with the virus.

Women collect water as part of CARE's COVID response in Dadaab

My greatest hope is to survive this pandemic and protect my family from the virus. God willing this disease will one day come to an end and life will go back to normal. What makes me feel safe is staying at home with my family and avoiding too much interaction with people, and making sure that my family and I practice proper hygiene practices at home and try not to spread the disease.

My message to the world is please let’s stay at home.

This might help reduce the spread of the disease and save lives. It is time for us as humans to keep ourselves safe and to save others. This is a war that needs to be fought with unity and strength and this can only be achieved by following the rules and regulations given by our health professionals. Be safe in order to save others; our lives matter a lot.

CARE’s COVID-19 response in Dadaab:

  • 16,700 previously trained individuals are acting as ambassadors on safe hand washing practices and COVID prevention.
  • Increased water pumping hours to ensure a sufficient supply of clean water for handwashing and domestic/household use. CARE also has repair teams working to fix broken pumps and water pipes.
  • Broadcasting awareness raising messages through the camp radio (with support of Film Aid) – Radio Gargar – and SMS blasts to community members.
  • Renovated 133 latrines, constructed 30 new bathrooms, nine hand washing stations and 44 tap stands in newly established quarantine centres.
  • Set up 45 handwashing stations in the three food distribution points.
  • Began a two month soap distribution to increase the amount of soap for families and help provide for proper hand washing practice.
  • Increased the number of food distributions seven to 13 to ensure we can make these safe allowing for appropriate crowd control measures and social distancing methods with thermos-scans and protective gear such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizers.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.