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The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Kenya

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in KenyaDue to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Kenya has experienced socioeconomic challenges leading to delayed progress in reducing poverty, with an estimated two million additional Kenyans falling into poverty. The rapid spread of the virus in Kenya has severe repercussions for people. The consequences include reduced job opportunities, lower wages, less access to healthcare assistance, difficulties transitioning to remote learning and food insecurity. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Kenya has especially affected women, youth and refugees.

Limited Jobs and Lower Wages = Reduced Food Supply

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Kenya affects household welfare due to fewer work opportunities and lower earnings, which leads to decreased food security. Compared to pre-pandemic rates, unemployment has nearly doubled. The working hours and earnings of wage workers have been cut, especially impacting women. Most families relied solely on the income of their small businesses, but due to lockdown restrictions, many businesses closed or experienced significantly reduced revenue. During the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1.7 million Kenyans experienced job losses.

Food security is a major concern for many families. Some are unable to afford expensive foods like vegetables and others can only afford to consume one or two meals per day. Most families reported that food shortage is the biggest challenge in the household. With the loss of jobs and income, people in Kenya can barely afford basic necessities such as food, water and healthcare assistance.

Limited Access to Healthcare

COVID-19 has deeply compromised access to healthcare. Many people reported having trouble getting public health coverage for non-COVID-19 related health problems. This forced people to go to private health clinics that offer highly-priced examinations. When a person in Kenya is infected with COVID-19 or other deadly diseases, the person is usually hospitalized even though they cannot afford the medical expenses. This forces the person to seek support from relatives or friends. Access to healthcare for intricate cases such as COVID-19 is limited since more than 78% of the population live in rural areas and 52% of people live in poverty. Most community and primary care centers in Kenya are short on medication and lack access to some of the most needed respiratory equipment, such as ventilators, which are needed to treat COVID-19.

Education for Children

Kenya has a commendable literacy rate of almost 80%. Due to the global pandemic, schools closed to prevent any further spread of the virus. This led to education transitioning to remote learning. Roughly 70% of Kenya’s schoolchildren live in rural areas with a lack of properly financed schools, qualified teachers and educational resources. Schools were expected to transition to remote learning but many students could not due to a lack of internet access and the high cost of internet access, especially in remote areas. For most households, accessing the internet costs more than a day’s pay. Many low-income families, particularly in rural areas, also have limited access to electronic resources such as smartphones and computers.

Raising Futures Kenya

Raising Futures Kenya is an organization that has helped Kenyans since 2001. Its main focus is helping young Kenyans secure a better future. The organization’s vocational centers have provided more than 1,500 young Kenyans with the skills and knowledge needed to secure employment and rise out of poverty.

Due to the global pandemic, fewer children are able to receive an education and people have limited access to healthcare. Fewer jobs available for families means households struggle to secure their everyday meals. The organization has called for support in order to effectively carry out its COVID-19 response plan in Kenya. The response includes securing essential items for communities such as food, hygiene products and medicines. Raising Futures Kenya is also prioritizes imparting important public health information to Kenya. Furthermore, the organization is transitioning to telephonic counseling to support children and youth during COVID-19.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Kenya has been harsh, pushing millions of families further into poverty and causing the population to face even more difficulties. Due to the outcomes of COVID-19, organizations will need continued funding and support to continue to address the effects of poverty in Kenya.

– Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr