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Preparing Africa’s Largest Slum against a Coronavirus Nightmare

In Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi and one of the largest slums in Africa, the biggest defenses against the spread of COVID-19—social distancing and frequent handwashing—are nearly impossible. Families cluster in 10-foot-by-10-foot shacks, and residents share one latrine with 50 to 150 people. Water in the pipes is often contaminated with sewage, clean water is scarce. But a local community leader is working to keep his neighbours safe with handwashing stations, soap distribution, and education initiatives. Shining Hope for Communities, or SHOFCO, is a grassroots organization in Nairobi that provides social services for those in urban slums, and specifically education and leadership opportunities for girls and women. SHOFCO has set up more than 100 handwashing stations in the slums of Nairobi, staffed with volunteers who instruct people to wash their hands when they enter and exit the slums to help keep COVID-19 out of those areas. Using an aerial water system that the nonprofit pioneered—and which won the 2018 Hilton Humanitarian Prize—overhead pipes carry this water, rather than ground-level pipes that are often tampered with or stepped on, thus allowing sewage to seep in.