COVID-19: Moving from relief to development.

I grew up in Kibera slum. Kibera is the second largest urban slum in Africa and the largest in Kenya. The description of Kibera varies depending on your experience and the time you have spent in the community. This description shocks me “Kibera is heavily polluted by human refuse, garbage, soot, dust, and other wastes. The slum is contaminated with human and animal feces, due to the open sewage system and the frequent use of “flying toilets.” The lack of sanitation combined with poor nutrition among the residents accounts for many illnesses and diseases”. This kind of descriptions opens opportunities for many philanthropists, development agencies and other well-wishers who want to support.

Like Kenya, most developing countries are flocked by non-government organizations and other development agencies. The different organization have developed different strategies to “rescue” the situation. However, the real test comes when those countries are struck by disasters or in case of a pandemic like Covid-19.

COVID-19 is a real test to development agencies, companies, philanthropists, governments, and others to understand if some of their interventions have been working. Are we more focused on relief or development in our responses?

Relief can be defined as responding to the needs of people temporarily. How does it look like? Instead of training jobless people on job skills, you consistently give them handouts while they are capable of working, donating food to a family every so often. Don’t get me wrong; there are instances when relief is the only way to meet the needs of people.

Development can be defined as the process of economic and social transformation that is based on complex cultural and environmental factors and their interactions.” Development takes time. I must admit, some of Garden of Hope Foundation’s intervention have been relief, but we have been reflecting and developing new ways to continue to ensure our responses are sustainable post COVID-19. This is as a result of what are seeing happening in the community during the the pandemic. We are only six years, but I believe this an opportunity to learn and unlearn.

We should continue working on interventions that can focus on creating more sustainable jobs, offering quality education, and ensuring access to quality health care among the citizens. After COVID-19, it would be time for us to rethink some of our interventions.

Victor Odhiambo

Co-Founder and Executive Director

Garden of Hope Foundation