The Aga Khan Foundation has been working with youth groups in northern Kenya for a number of years to help create opportunities for its young people. We spoke to Walid Ahmed, Director of Lamu Youth Alliance, to find out how his organisation is working to keep people safe during the pandemic.
When did you first hear about COVID-19? What did you think or feel at that time?
I heard about COVID-19 in early January 2020. At that time I felt scared because, according to the news, the disease is highly contagious and it can kill many people. I thought that the government of Kenya should put drastic measures in place, like closing the borders to curb the spread of the disease, and establish precautionary measures as quickly as possible.
How has COVID-19 had an impact on you and your community?
So far in my community there are no reported cases of COVID-19, but the disease has negatively impacted our socio-economic activities and livelihoods. The measures that the government have established, such as curfews and travel restrictions, have left many people with no jobs, and this has made it very hard for them to buy food and other basic commodities.
How are you contributing to the fight against this pandemic? Why are you taking action?
I am contributing through the community-based organisation I founded a few years ago — Lamu Youth Alliance (LYA). Through this organisation I have established several hand-washing facilities in Lamu to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Through LYA, I have also raised awareness in my community on the precautionary measures needed to tackle the spread of the virus as given by the Ministry of Health. We are also fundraising to help several vulnerable households buy food and supplies.
Since it is now mandatory for everyone to wear masks, the LYA have come up with an initiative of creating masks for the people on this island to help slow the infection rate. I have also established a disinfectant booth nearby to help community members sanitise themselves.
I am doing all of this to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in our county and to cushion the most vulnerable during this hard economic period.
What is an object you use every day that helps you in the fight against COVID-19? Why or how does it help you?
The object I use is my passion for my community to prosper. This motivates me every day to come up with initiatives that will help keep the people of this county safe and supported.
What is one thing you would like to say to the rest of the world, about this global challenge we are all facing together?
This is a global pandemic and each and every state is affected. I urge each and every person in this world to take all the precaution measures seriously, care for one another and support each other during this hard times. Together we can.
Thank you for this valuable work, Walid.
The Lamu Youth Alliance is one of many civil society organisation that the Aga Khan Foundation has worked with in Northern Kenya for the past three years, under a programme funded by the European Union. The programme is designed to provide opportunities and skills training for young people, and help them take a more active role in their communities.