Community responses to Covid-19 in Marsabit County, Kenya

nils carstensen

Responding to Covid-19 in Marsabit county, Kenya

Background note to videos produced by Mamo Ali and Darare Gonche, July 2020, for IREMO in Marsabit, Kenya. The videos were produced with support from Christian Aid, Diakonie Kastatrophile and L2GP.

Video 1: Community led responsibility
Watch the video here:

This video is from the community of Hurri Hills, Maikona ward, Marsabit County, Kenya.
Hurri Hills which is a remote and difficult to reach location 170 km from Marsabit town.  It is like a highland in an otherwise desert-like region and receives fairly higher rainfall than the lower surrounding lands. The inhabitants are agro pastoralists, majority keep livestock while few people plant subsistence food crops. It acts as a refuge area for pasture and fodder for the livestock. The surrounding communities usually come in large numbers during the good season and pasture and water is depleted rather very quickly.  However, the people of Hurri Hills have a lot of other challenges as well including poor infrastructure, high illiteracy levels, poverty and lack of law enforcement officer – all this beside the perennial water shortage.

Between the month of June 2019 and March 2020, the community benefitted an initiative implemented by IREMO with support from Christian Aid and L2GP. As a result of this intervention communities were introduced to survivor and community-led crisis responses (sclr). Community took the approach as positive steps towards meaningful engagement whereby community volunteers - locally known as Shepherds” - took up the responsibility of being the eye, ears and voice of the community.

As a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, IREMO also partnered with Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe to support the Hurri Hills community with personal protection, hygiene and sanitation supplies. Simultaneously, the community volunteers took on responsibilities of enforcing curfew guidelines in the absence of anything like regular police in their area.

In the absence of the law enforcement on the ground the Hurri Hills, the community took the matter into their hands to control movements of people in and out of their settlements during this period of covid-19. They did this voluntarily and selected elders, youths and local administration officers (Chiefs) who took guard of the town and watched over any crowd of people in all the business and market areas. The aim is to protect themselves from visitors who could be infected within their environment and to take the appropriate actions to prevent this.  “Waan qabani jiil bahan” is a Gabra saying which addresses a situation where circumstances demand action/intervention. It can also mean that the success of any activity starts with using what you have at hand.


Video 2: Positive impact of hand washing
Watch the video here:

A saying in Marsabit goes: "Hamtu kees Toltun Jirt" – meaning that even bad situation could stir a good effect. During the Covid-19 pandemic there has been increased hand washing observed the communities IREMO work with. As a result, we have noticed was a drastic reduction of diarrhea and eye infections among Loglogo community where IREMO with support of Diakonie Katastephenhilfe has supported distribution of personal protection equipment and sanitation hygiene supplies. This reduction of other diseases was report by Laisamis Sub County Public Health Officer. Darare Gonche of IREMO sees this as a positive impact of hand washing, which has greatly helped community change attitudes towards something, they earlier thought of as a waste of time. “I believe this will now remain as a permanent practice even after Covid-19 leaves us”, explains Darare Gonche.


Find more examples of community-led responses to COVID-19 at L2GP’s website.

Local to Global Protection
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