The directives of most African governments to close schools and organizations that offer nonessential services have brought to the fore the difficult circumstances which orphaned children and those who live in children's homes across Africa have to cope with in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Smile Community Centre currently hosts 25 children and since this is where they live, we operate as one big family.
Margret Nekesa, founder, Smile Community Centre Children's Home
According to Margret Nekesa, the founder of Smile Community Centre Children's Home located in the Soweto slum, in Nairobi's Kayole Township, her establishment has followed all the directives by the government in order to keep the children in the institution safe from the coronavirus despite the challenges they face.
"Smile Community Centre currently hosts 25 children and since this is where they live, we operate as one big family," Nekesa said. "Unlike other institutions, we mostly host children and that is why we are extra careful to ensure that the virus does not come past our gates."
Nekesa said that putting the strict measures in place has paid off. In addition to having no coronavirus infections within the facility, the children's health has improved and for the last three months they have not experienced any cases of common flu, stomach upsets or diarrhea.
Abel Wanami, a beneficiary of the children's home, said that they have faced multiple challenges at the institution, but have found ways to overcome them and move on. Wanami was brought up there and is currently pursuing a university degree at the University of Nairobi.
When schools were closed due to the virus, Wanami had no option but to return. "One of our main challenges is the fact that some of my brothers and sisters in this home are very young and do not observe some of the social distancing rules unless prompted," he said.
"In addition, since we are still struggling with facilities, some of us have to share amenities like beds in which case there is no social distancing. That is why our management has insisted that no one from outside can have contact with the rest of us to ensure that we keep the virus out," Wanami added.
According to Wanami, they have been surviving on donations from well-wishers, and he hopes the government can come up with a structured way of identifying needy children and ensuring they can get aid for school fees, clothing and food even beyond the pandemic.
Nekesa said: "A week ago we received food donations from the Nairobi District Children's Office and we are grateful. However, that is the only food donation we have received from the government in addition to a donation from the Nairobi County member of Parliament."
She added that the masks they use are made by the orphans living in the children's home. Her main worry going forward is how the government will ensure hygiene and social distancing once schools reopen.
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