SHOFCO recognized in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards
In Kenya’s urban slums, mistrust of government runs high, and the news of COVID-19 was met with disbelief. As a result, a major threat to effective pandemic response was the rapid spread of rumours via word of mouth and mobile phones, undermining the behavioural measures needed to keep the virus from spreading rapidly – especially within dense urban slums.
SHOFCO’s winning “COVID-19 rumour-tracking system” is devised to enable community members to report claims, rumours, or questions about the COVID-19 outbreak via SMS. SHOFCO then helped to dispel these rumours by replying with factual information based on recommendations from CDC and WHO. Since April 2020, we have received more than 440,000 SMSs including damaging and potentially life-threatening rumours such as denying the existence of COVID-19 in Kenya
SHOFCO then partnered with a team of Google volunteers to build a machine learning model using natural language processing to analyze large volumes of SMS responses in real-time. This data informs SHOFCO’s direct response to COVID-19, including door-to-door symptom screening campaigns, ongoing community sensitization via broadcast SMS messaging, and is shared with the national COVID-19 task force. In this way, SHOFCO’s rumour tracking project is a replicable model and public service that is increasing the visibility of slum dwellers who are otherwise overlooked and left behind.
Our Community-Based Response
Public Awareness and Community Outreach: Community Health Workers and SUN volunteers are going door-to-door across the slums to raise awareness, distribute soap, hand sanitizers, and informational pamphlets in Kiswahili. We have trained 97 Community Health Workers and mobilized 630 SUN volunteers.
Health Screenings: We have completed 1,847,328 screenings for COVID-19 symptoms through our clinics and household-level outreach, done in coordination with 820 Nairobi county health workers. Suspected cases are referred to the Ministry of Health for quarantine and testing.
Handwashing and Sanitation Campaigns: SHOFCO has installed 354 handwashing stations across major entry points into the 17 settlements where we work, staffed by volunteers, which serve as key access points for health awareness information and distribution of informational pamphlets, soap, and hand sanitizer. We currently operate 40 handwashing stations, having transitioned 314 stations over to community management. These stations have been used 50,848,549 times. We have also installed access points at our 24 clean water kiosks and 47 community toilets throughout Kibera.
Provision of Clean Water: We have provided 8,268,770 liters of free water in Kibera via our innovative aerial water piping system. In communities where we don’t have water systems, we have distributed 19,780,000 liters via water truck access points.
Distribution at Scale: SHOFCO has partnered to source enough soap to be distributed to every household in the slums where we work. To date, we distributed 408,510 soaps and 265,942 hand sanitizers.
Combating Misinformation: We are collecting questions, rumors, and reports of misinformation from community members via SMS or door-to-door surveys that we fact-check and address via local radio and other direct communication strategies. To date, we have enrolled 351,054 contacts in our SMS platform, and analyzed 7,643 household-level survey responses.
Emergency Food Support: SHOFCO is bulk purchasing basic essentials (cooking oil, rice, etc.) that we can offer below retail costs in our sites in the event of food shortages or extreme price-gouging that would severely impact vulnerable slum residents. We are conducting targeted food distributions to ensure the most vulnerable do not starve, and have reached 32,789 slum dwellers to date.
Direct Cash Transfer: In partnership with GiveDirectly, we are providing direct cash transfers of $30 USD equivalent per month for three months to vulnerable families. To date, we have disbursed $2,899,740 to 34,457 individuals in the SHOFCO Urban Network.
Gender Based Violence: Our Gender Department has responded to 2,064 cases of gender-based violence. Since our COVID-19 response began, we have seen a 90% increase in average cases per month.
We are working in alignment and close coordination with local and national government stakeholders that have expertise on outbreak response protocols and referral procedures but lack the ability — and supplies — to conduct an effective response in the slums. We are working with the UN, UN-Habitat, OCHA, and Amref, as well as the Government National COVID-19 Community Engagement task force, where SHOFCO Co-Founder & CEO Kennedy Odede is leading the informal settlement working group. Kennedy has also been appointed to the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which allocates resources nationwide.
Our schools and way forward
Following government recommendations, SHOFCO has suspended classes at the Kibera and Mathare School for Girls until 2021. We will continue to take action to ensure beneficiaries, community members, and staff are protected and provided with accurate and up to date information.
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