The PACK Initiative
A popular slogan among humanitarian organizations from the Global North working in Africa to alleviate the multiple pandemics associated with the Corona Virus Disease
‘We are in this together’
.The Government of Kenya has adopted the slogan as it continue to issue and enforce common guidelines toward prevention and management of COVID-19: Stay at home; keep social distance; wash hands with soap and running water or use sanitizers; wear a face mask whenever in public places; and so on.However,reality suggests that we are not in this together COVID 19 and adherence (and lack of) to the Government guidelines has not only exposed but worsened the gap between the rich and the poor especially in urban settings. Families living in big houses with big ‘well-manicured’ compounds inside gated communities have installed running water and sanitizers at their gates, facilities that nobody uses because every other person drives in and out of the gate that is efficiently manned by security personnel; they have bottles of sanitizers and spare face masks everywhere – in their cars, in their houses, in their handbags; in their pockets; they have stocked enough food and toilet paper to last them a year; and they continue to work behind computers in their houses!
Compare this with families who live in informal settlements in congested one-roomed shelters without running water; who cannot afford a mask for every member of their households so they share – whoever is going out takes the available masks; and who must go out every day to look for work as they earn from hand to mouth. No. We are not in this together.
Within these families are even more vulnerable populations- adolescent boys and girls. Ordinarily, adolescents spend much of their time in school under the watchful eye and care of teachers. With schools closed, thanks to COVID-19, adolescents in urban informal settlements are idle and trapped in one-roomed shanties with similarly idle adults. The result is obvious: sexual violence, and enrolment of adolescents into criminal activities and drug abuse. This is manifested in high incidences of adolescent rape and defilement, teenage pregnancies, drug abuse and involvement of adolescents in crime.
The African Character Initiation Programme (ACIP), a community based and community participatory programme which accompanies children through adolescence into responsible adulthood through provision of knowledge, skills, values and mentorship to build their confidence and self-esteem, wishes to accompany adolescent boys and girls from Kijiji through the COVID season. Kijiji is an informal settlement in Eldoret town, in Uasin Gishu County of Kenya. The initative to accompany these adolescents is called the participatory Action for self-empowerment of the Community in Kijiji