COVID-19 Sacks Thousands of Migrant Workers in Kenya

314 views | Akanimo Sampson | June 14, 2020

Thousands of migrant workers in Kenya have lost their jobs and source of income due to the effect of the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the stranded migrants have been living and working in Kenya for years. Now, they have lost jobs and income due to movement restrictions and curfews and the general economic slowdown, all brought by the pandemic.  

Many work in the informal sector, whose nature leaves migrants vulnerable to COVID-19’s worst impacts. Moreover, many cannot access public services or any of the government’s public COVID-19 relief measures. 

For instance, over 300 Ethiopian migrants and their families are receiving food and other essential items from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital city, a small effort to mitigate the broader impact of COVID-19 in the region.  

IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa, Mohammed Abdiker, says “migrants are some of the most vulnerable people in the region and their livelihoods have been and continue to be severely impacted by COVID-19. All partners including humanitarian agencies and governments must work in tandem to alleviate the impact on these vulnerable people.”

A mother of five, Assfa Atiwala, is receiving help. She arrived in Nairobi from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2017, finding work as a cleaner in homes and restaurants here in Kenya’s capital when the pandemic hit.  

“Because of the virus, many of the restaurants I used to work are now closed. I can’t find work. I have not been able to pay my rent and I fear the landlord will throw me out”, she told IOM.

Assfa is far from alone. An estimated 40,000 Ethiopian migrants are living and working in Kenya. 

“The food we are getting today will help cushion us for a few days,” Assfa added. “Last night we had only hot water mixed with sugar. It is hard”, Assfa said.

IOM is also providing medical assistance, such as for diabetes. 

“We are grateful to IOM for this assistance. It will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of people in need of such humanitarian assistance. We value the relationship that exists between our government and IOM”, said Meles Alem, Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya 

Leave a Comment