Day laborers in Kenya's capital are worried about what to live for if Corona continues to spread. Already there is hardly any work.
NAIROBI taz | “If the corona virus doesn't kill me, I'm going to die of hunger,” feared Joseph Mwongela. Every day, the 27-year-old runs from Ongata Rongai, where the first coronavirus cases in Kenya were registered, to the center of the capital, Nairobi, in search of work. He is now standing at the entrance to the Catholic University and is watching students load their things into cars and buses to drive home. All schools are closed.
Mwongela is one of the many people who leave the crowded satellite cities of Nairobi on their way to work in the metropolis every day: hairdressers, domestic workers, mechanics, bus drivers. “I came to Nairobi a year ago to look for work because there are no jobs at home,” he says. “My brother is a car mechanic, he lives in a room in Ongata Rongai for rent, and I share that with him. But there is hardly any work. I am now considering going to my parents in Ukumbani. Anyway, they have a vegetable garden and a few sheep. ”
The parents live far out on a hill far from the nearest village. Mwongela hopes that the corona virus will not get this far. He is very scared. When it became known on Friday March 13th that a Kenyan student, who had just returned from the United States, had tested positive in Ongata Rongai, panic struck. Those who could afford it started to hamster. Others sent children and seniors to relatives in the country.
Kenya's health care system is inadequate even in normal times. The nursing staff of the Mbagathi hospital in Nairobi, specially equipped for corona cases according to the government, is on a stroll. The demand: better protective clothing and more corona tests. Only people with symptoms who are reporting are currently being tested. Most Kenyans have no money for a doctor. You will never officially know if you had Corona or anything else.
“I am powerless”
A beauty salon wanted to earn money and offered corona tests on Facebook. The police came shortly afterwards and arrested all of the employees for suspected dizziness. Immediately after the announcement of the first Corona case, jokes were circulating about who would enrich it.
James Kiarie will only lose. The 47-year-old usually lives from tourists. He offers animals carved out of wood on the roadside, especially birds. “I haven't sold anything since the first case became known. But I'm not giving up yet. Kenyans may also want to buy something like that to cheer themselves up in troubled times. ”
Kiarie commutes from Kiambu, a town north of Nairobi. “It is scary to have to travel here in a Matatu (minibus). They're usually overcrowded and dirty. But there were far fewer passengers today, ”says the widower. He is worried about his two sons, who help him paint the wooden animals: they are grown up but have no work. In Kiambu he has a small vegetable field with a few banana trees. Nevertheless, he is very worried about the future: “I am powerless and can only pray that we will survive this plague.”
Pray a lot – the cleaners and gardeners who go to work from Ongata Rongai in the neighboring middle class district also do that. They all decided to walk the four kilometers to work because they now find Matatus too risky. Their employers showed them videos of how to wash their hands intensively and explained as much as possible about the virus.
“I fancy seeing the corona virus everywhere, although I don't know what it looks like. I'm so scared, ”says nanny Alice Omwakwe (37). “I have two small children myself and my sister takes care of them when I work. But what will happen if we may not be allowed to go out afterwards? Will I still be paid? “
A third of Kenyans, around 17 million people, live in cities. Just over half of them live in poor areas or in places like Ongata Rongai, where incomes are low and people are not insured. Self-isolation is hardly possible for them because they cannot survive without a salary.
The nanny talks to her cousin Zamu Mwangale, cleaning lady in the neighboring house. She lives alone with her sick daughter, who often has to go to the hospital. “She gets injections there every week. What if someone comes there who is infected with corona? If even America and Europe cannot overcome this virus, then we are completely helpless here. ”