By Hannah Campbell
For rural households in Kenya, the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis is not a direct health impact, but an economic one. The virus is predominantly in urban centres, where people are closer together and the risk of spread is higher. If the virus does spread to rural areas, weaker health systems would mean trouble for community members. However, whether COVID-19 spreads to Loisaba’s surrounding communities or not, the food systems have been disrupted and economic challenges have increased, particularly impacting vulnerable rural households.
“Due to COVID-19, the livestock markets that people depend on have been closed. The community now have no place to sell their livestock so that they can buy food for their families. Price of food has also gone up due to less supply, and people who were employed in tourism have been sent on unpaid leave – so those families who have been depending on those individuals have been affected too” says Paul Naiputari, Loisaba’s Community Liaison and Development Officer.
It is now more important than ever to support our neighbouring communities, and ensure they link living close to a protected area such as Loisaba with positive benefits in order to protect habitat and wildlife. Despite Loisaba’s operating budget being significantly reduced, we have been able to continue to support our local communities with support from San Diego Zoo Global, The Nature Conservancy and other generous donors.
Health Outreach Clinics
We are continuing to run our health outreach clinics, with our clinical health officer Kaltuma offering consultations and treatment to people that would otherwise be unable to access healthcare, as well as offering support to Ewaso Dispensary. So far this year, 5 outreach clinics have been held and a total of 756 patients seen.
In addition to treating patients, our team has been spreading awareness of the symptoms and best ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the importance of social distancing and hand washing. Five hand washing stations have also been donated to communities.
Due to the virus, many people have lost their jobs and are struggling to feed their families. So far, we have been able to donate food supplies to 270 households in our neighbouring communities.
We have also donated $2,500 to the Laikipia County “Komesha Corona” (Put an End to Corona) Emergency Fund, with a further $5,250 donated through the county’s “sponsor a village” initiative, with food going directly to our local communities. This government led initiative is helping to deliver food packages to the families in Laikipia who are struggling with loss of employment and high food prices.
While our Education Days at the Loisaba Conservation Centre have been put on hold during the pandemic, we are continuing to support our local students. WhatsApp groups have been formed with teachers and parents, with teachers sending notes and assignments. This is challenging however, as many parents do not have smart phones and those who do don’t have a reliable internet connection. We are in the process of looking into acquiring data and airtime to help these households.
We need your help!
With the closure of Loisaba’s tourism properties, our operating budget has been reduced significantly – with a forecasted $1 million lost in revenue from tourism and other areas of income that would usually contribute toward wildlife security, conservancy operations and community outreach programmes.
If you would like to help us maintain zero poaching levels, keep our rangers on the ground, protect endangered species and support local communities who have no access to healthcare, please donate today.
Even a small donation will make a huge difference to Loisaba’s conservation and community development work.
Thank you, and stay safe!