Mapping Covid-19’s impact and response in communities in Kenya

As cases of coronavirus continue to mount in Kenya, Map Kibera has launched the Kenya Covid-19 Tracker Ushahidi instance in order to track cases in the country and resources available, especially in the slum areas of Nairobi such as Kibera. 

Those who live in and work with residents of informal settlements and refugee camps are particularly concerned that the virus will spread easily in these close quarters. Meanwhile, other concerns are arising such as economic hardship caused by the imposition of lockdowns, and inability to comply leading to excessive use of force. In Kibera these challenges are already happening. We want to make sure that the impact of Covid-19 on the slums are accurately tracked and mapped. 

My EthicalGEO fellowship concerns the ethics of mapping with vulnerable populations, one dimension of which is to ensure people have a voice and are part of the process of mapping. Our map shows who is doing what to help prevent Covid-19 around Kenya, and is coupled with videos and health information by Map Kibera’s citizen media team, Kibera News Network (KNN).

My partner and I started Map Kibera in 2009, supporting Kibera youth to map their community online for the first time using OpenStreetMap. KNN was created the following year as a way to provide even more of a voice for residents. Currently, Map Kibera’s mappers and the KNN team are mapping new Covid-19 cases every day, and activities being undertaken such as distributing food and face masks, setting up handwashing stations, sharing messages about how to stay healthy, and more. Initiative leaders can also submit their own posts about what they are doing. Map Kibera is additionally mapping news items related to the virus, like articles from major new sources and tweets and social media, and verifying all incoming posts. KNN is posting videos and sharing information on Youtube, Whatsapp and Instagram.

Our goal is to keep this information together in one easy place, and allow people to see what is going on around them that might be useful for them. It is also to aid in our efforts to keep Kibera, one of the most vulnerable communities to illness, healthy during the pandemic. 

We are using Ushahidi in part to document the crisis itself, throughout Kenya, and to create a geospatial information resource about what is happening where for anyone to use. Several Kenyan organizations are already sharing the resource and using it to map their own work.

Our initial findings indicate that many organizations have taken measures to help communities tackle the issue of Coronavirus. Handwashing points that we mapped out seem to be fairly evenly distributed in Kibera; meaning at least a good number of people are able to access them. Organizations that previously did other work have re-tooled to better serve the community in this season; for instance Uweza in Kibera has been making masks for giving away, and the Polycom Development Trust makes sanitary pads for girls and is providing soap. Some of these efforts have also been highlighted in this video by our journalists at Kibera News Network.

Regarding mapping of the spread of coronavirus in the country, we have also learned that tracking the government figures announced in their daily briefings can be difficult, especially in terms of matching cases to counties and tracking them with recoveries or deaths. However, the map allows some visualization of the spread, to see how and where infections are being confirmed.

Over time, we envision that the resource mapping coupled with incidence locations will enable the provision of resources where they are needed, help coordination, and prevent the duplication of efforts, while also allowing people to find out where to access what they need.

We invite you to support the project financially by donating here, or if you are in Kenya, be a part of the efforts by submitting your reports to the map Covid-19 Incidence and Resource Mapping.