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1 May

OVs from around the world-Story from Kenya

Last week in our OV news we shared stories from Norway and New Zealand and this week we have a fascinating entry from Sarah who lives in Kenya.

We really enjoy reading these OV news updates so if you live abroad and would like to share your story please do let us know at


Photo of OV Sarah Flowers in Kenya with her 2 dogs

Kenya: Sarah Flowers (Co 87-89)

The first positive Coronavirus case was reported in Kenya on 13th March 2020, so we are on a very different part of the curve to most European countries and the USA.

The response to the appearance of the virus was rapid and, in my opinion, appropriate to our circumstances. When a large proportion of the population is engaged in the informal economy, living hand to mouth on a daily wage basis and living cheek by jowl in high density housing, with shared sanitation and cooking facilities, a western style lockdown is simply not possible.

Initial advice was to work from home wherever possible and practice social distancing, incoming and outgoing international passenger flights were quickly cancelled. On Friday 27th March a dusk to dawn curfew came into force, followed on 6th April by movement restrictions into and out of Nairobi and Mombasa metropolitan areas, which had by that point been identified as the hotpots for positive cases. On 27th April these were both extended for another 21 day period.

As of today, the total number of positive cases recorded in Kenya is 396 (with 17 deaths), so the strategy is still to find, isolate, test and treat and then to use contact tracing to follow the procedure again and again, with the contacts for each new case. This is proving highly effective in Kenyan circumstances, partly because even in the large cities there are community connections, most people know their neighbours and also because data protection controls are not quite as rigid as they are in the west. Testing capacity is somewhat limited (approximately 20,000 tests in total to date), so this is a very sensible approach to prioritise limited resources. The vast majority of cases have been identified either in quarantine or via this surveillance technique. Very few have presented at health centres showing symptoms.

What does this mean for me? I must set the record straight, in that I am indeed self-isolating and social distancing at home, but working is a bit of an exaggeration! I am simply engaged in my usual occupation of domestic management. There has, however, been a substantial change in circumstances, in that my husband has been working from home for six weeks and not travelling every other week, as is his usual routine.

We are located about 20 km outside the Nairobi Metropolitan boundary which means that going to any of my usual shopping haunts is not possible, so I have been discovering ways to keep us fed and watered. Luckily, we live on a corporate owned farm (part of my husband’s job), with cattle, so our meat and milk needs are met from that. One of the managers farms chickens, so that’s eggs taken care of and the veggie patch is doing its best to keep up with greens. The supermarket in our local town (inside the Nairobi boundary) has started doing home deliveries, so a weekly shopping list via Whatsapp (including photos, if necessary, and a conversation with my personal shopper) keeps the dry goods in stock. Another shopping list is relayed to a chap with a motorbike in the nearest village, who delivers fresh fruit and vegetables to the gate. And most importantly, there is an online supplier of wine in Nairobi, who is still allowed to deliver to us!

The fact that Kenya is not in lockdown means that there is still some economic activity going on and as an agricultural business, we are allowed to continue operating (with the correct precautionary measures in place). However, much of our produce is exported, the shipping logistics are proving unreliable and the markets are of course volatile and uncertain. As the world begins to suffer another economic crisis and people tighten their belts, the purchase of Kenyan imports may no longer be a priority. The cut flower industry in this country has already collapsed and as our major export product that has had a significant impact, not least on employment. The most devastating impact, however, has been, and will continue to be, in the tourism sector, Kenya’s biggest foreign exchange earner and one of the largest employers nationwide. Over the last few years the industry has been getting back on its feet after the Ebola crisis and terrorism fears, raised by Al Shabaab activity.

As with the vast majority of the world, the question I ask daily is: “how and when will it end?” In the meantime, I am grateful each day that I live in a property large enough that the dogs and I are able to exercise without ever having to leave home. Most weekends we sit outside and have a barbecue and even the horse has no clue that the world outside the fence has changed beyond all recognition. Thank goodness that my life in the past has included periods of living in relative isolation and developing self-reliance. But what a pleasure it is these days to be connected to the internet and to be able to spend my time looking for recipes to use up this week’s glut of fruit / vegetables, to keep in touch with family and friends around the globe and of course to keep the cellar stocked!

Take care and stay safe out there.