With millions in the Global North now living under some form of quarantine, communities across sub-Saharan Africa are only beginning to feel the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After three positive cases were reported in Kenya, the Kenyan government announced on March 15 that it was restricting travel, closing the borders to non-residents, and shuttering schools.
For the activists of Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), a Fund-backed frontline organization supporting communities throughout Kenya’s coastal region, the decree meant fresh obstacles to advocacy and organizing—but also urgent new opportunities for life-saving work.
MUHURI has suspended their regular programming, which typically is focused on countering violent extremism and expanding civic space in Kenya. All field officers are working from home, to encourage physical distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But as a key organizer of Kenya’s civil society groups, MUHURI has stepped up to help coordinate a rapid response team for Kenya’s coastal civil society organizations.
As part of the team, MUHURI is now drawing on their extensive network of community leaders throughout the coast to help monitor government actions and educate people on COVID-19 preventative measures.
In addition to disseminating important information to the communities they support, MUHURI is also collecting information from their civil society partners and offering advice to county governments on how best to respond.
“Our aim as an organization is to assist both the national and the county governments to avoid any more infections in Kenya,” says Frederick Okado, a project assistant at MUHURI.
This grassroots work is increasingly important as COVID-19 continues to spread. Communities along the coast—many in remote areas without access to basic services or infrastructure—will be in critical need of accurate information and trusted local organizations who can connect them with county and national-level support they may not otherwise have access to.
MUHURI’s crisis management team is working around the clock to make sure that both the government and the public are prepared for the pandemic. Thanks to their local roots and wide reach, the activists of MUHURI have become a crucial part of the COVID-19 response in Kenya. We are proud to stand by MUHURI as they shift their focus to tackle this challenging moment of urgent need.
As Fund-supported activists adapt and respond to the global outbreak of COVID-19, we will be sharing stories of inspiring community leaders and innovative local action on the front lines of the pandemic. For more, please visit our blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.