Janet Omondi (Trustee) discusses with the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine (LSHTM) about how COVID-19 has affected her work, the timely relevance of her training and how this has helped the implementation teams on the ground in the UK and in Kenya.

Covid-19 Alumni Stories: Janet Omondi

Janet Omondi (Msc Public Health, 2017) is a Trustee for Riana Development Network (RDN) which is a UK based charity that works directly with BAME young people in the UK and overseas. In this blog piece, she discusses how COVID-19 has affected her work and how Kenya’s response to the outbreak has come with challenges.

How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your work?

Riana Development’s project work in the UK has changed because of the virus. Staff have been based at home and communicating through telephone, e-mail, text and social media for remote working and meetings. There have been challenges in ensuring our team is safe from infection whilst on duty, and morale has been hit as people are uncertain of the future ICT challenges. Also, cash flow issues have arisen as we have low reserves for contingencies in the absence of mainstream funding.

How have you been responding to the outbreak?

We have had to make some changes to the way we work on our UK projects, including the suspension of all our community-based activities, and the launch of new activities via new media e.g. online tuition to continue young people’s programmes. We have launched a relief effort where our staff and volunteers support, befriend and shop for vulnerable people such as the elderly, disabled people and families.

How has your countries response to the outbreak affected your work?

In Kenya, there was a national call for curfew initiated, for 21 days from 7:00pm to 6:00am, in both urban and rural areas. This sent people into panic as movement was restricted, with offices and businesses forced to close indefinitely. Kenya’s informal sector makes up to 81% of the total working population (UN; Dec 2016), with the majority of these employees living on temporary contracts and/or contested daily job opportunities for daily/weekly pay. The closure of businesses prompted drastic movement to rural areas, mostly among slum dwellers. There was more demand for our services within the rural area where we operate from.

How has LSHTM’s training helped you during this outbreak?

The training has helped us to initiate training and sensitisation to communities through health promotion, and to provide public health prevention measures to mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

Article written as part of the LSHTM alumni blog