Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya 22 March 2020 – A local youth centre, supported by UN-Habitat, stepped in to protect residents in Nairobi slum from COVID-19 by setting up two hand washing areas to mark World Water Day.

Mathare’s One Stop Youth Centre set up the facilities in the Mlango Kubwa community of around 50,000 people.

“Members of our community have become very concerned about the outbreak of the Corona virus,” said Isaac Muasa, Coordinator of the Mathare One Stop who is also known as Kaka or big brother. “It is often the children and youth who are asking what can be done, and no one had any answers. That is why we approached our partners with a proposal to provide handwashing stations in Mathare.”

One handwashing station was set up at the Mathare One Stop youth centre and the other at the António Guterres Slum Soccer pitch, helping the youth to set up a critical service and raise awareness about the importance of good hygiene. More than 500 people came to use the new facilities on World Water Day on Sunday.

Tabitha Muthoni 10yrs old.
A young girl washes her hands at the new wash stand set up in Nairobi’s Mathare informal settlement
UN-Habitat/Isaac Musasa

“I really wanted to wash my hands so that I wouldn't get the virus and get sick,” said 10-year old Tabitha Muthoni. “When I heard that Kaka had set up two stations, I told my mother we had to go immediately.”

Mathare’s population is predominantly young, as in most of Africa where around 70 percent of people are under the age of 25. UN-Habitat builds its programmes on a “youth-led development” methodology, which states that the youth, even as young as 12, have the capacity to take leadership roles in their community.

“Most of the people who washed their hands today were young people,” said Isaac. “It is clear to us that they will be the ones making sure that the community carries out proper hygiene practices and beats back this deadly virus.”

Hi group is now holding further discussions about a larger roll out of the handwashing stations across Mathare and other informal settlements in Kenya.