The last two weeks of the 7pm to 5am curfew have exposed the urban settlements’ precarious living conditions. A majority of residents hesitated to decide whether they would stay in the city or take refuge upcountry, a few opted to temporarily seek refuge upcountry, but most took a watchful-waiting approach, wishing this dark cloud passes by quickly. Now they cannot move.
For now, the hope is that this will be over in a few weeks or months. The reality on the other hand is quite different. Nations affected earlier on have now gone into the second and third months of curtailed movement and economic activities. Without knowing how the pandemic will evolve, many unemployed and self-employed people are living in fear.
The worrying concern is that there is very little known of this pandemic.
Projections from elsewhere, however, indicate the curtailed movements and enforced restrictions will be around for some more months. Nations with a head start from us suggest a return to normalcy in June to August. Here’s the thing about viral illnesses, save for vaccination, one cannot run from them, as they will still be around. In this case in particular as it is similar to other flu-like illnesses, Covid -19 is like an unwelcome guest, here to stay.
A divide will be created between those who were infected and recovered and those who are yet to be since pockets of infection will still remain.
For those of us who spend time in both the city and rural areas, the effects of the curfew are quite contrasting. In my sleepy environs of Oloitokitok, pastoralists and farmers are still engaged in their trade providing food for their families. Only trade seems to have been affected. This is quite the opposite for urbanites. Many families with lost income opportunities will struggle. With many relying on higher income groups for trickle down income, since they themselves are strung up, it exposes the urban dwelling frailties. On a good note, rural dwellers who traditionally depend on urban relatives for financial support now have an opportunity to give back. Maize and beans sacks from the shambas are finding their way to the towns in higher volumes and frequencies. For us rural dwellers, we have an opportunity to also feed the urban relatives stuck in their houses.
As Easter approaches, across informal settlements in rural townships and urban settlements, some anxiety on how the next few weeks will be lived abounds.
The next few months will certainly reshape how our lives in the city are lived and hopefully initiate need to invest in luring back county diaspora stuck in the city when movement is allowed.
Nairobi’s precarious living conditions and lifestyles need a rethink for many once the pandemic ends. Rural counties also have an opportunity to now start discourse with their diaspora on long-term relocation plans to help build their counties.