Nairobi, 9 June 2020 – Kenya’s brightly decorated minibuses, a popular form of public transport, are carrying messages and images on COVID-19 prevention around the capital.

Under the UN-Habitat project, the matatus have been spray painted with images of cyclists and people with masks featuring messages such as ‘We care for your safety’, ‘Keep Physical Distance’ and ‘Stop Coronavirus’.

The first two uniquely branded vehicles were unveiled at an outdoor, well spaced event in Nairobi organized by UN-Habitat in partnership with the Matatu Welfare Association, Flone Initiative and Light Art Club, and with the support of the National Transport and Safety Authority and the Kenya Urban Roads Authority.

“A picture speaks a thousand words - public transport can be an important communication tool in helping spread awareness on preventive measures on COVID-19,” said Rose Kiriinya, Foreign Service Officer of the Kenya Mission to UN-Habitat.

The Director General of Kenya’s National Transport and Safety, George Njao, pointed out that each matatu carries around 300 people a day.

“This means that one sick matatu worker could infect 300 people in a day. COVID-19 is here to stay. The message on the matatus goes beyond COVID-19 – it is going to change the overall general public health in our transport system,” he said 

Oumar Sylla, Director of UN-Habitat’s Regional Office for Africa said the agency supports the work of the Kenyan Government to ensure necessary prevention measures are taken on public transport and that important steps such as reducing occupancy, sanitizing vehicles and promoting cashless payments had already been introduced.

He added that UN-Habitat has been working with Government in Kenya, for several years on developing public transport networks which are essential for economic activities and livelihoods but can be a means of spreading the COVID-19 pandemic

The Chairman of the Matatu Welfare Association Dickson Mbugua, commended UN-Habitat for coming up with the idea of spreading messages on matatus.

“The two vehicles are going to Kibera and to the Industrial Area – both areas with high population density. Ensuring safe public transport to these areas will be essential for the health of the population,” he stated.

Kevin Wandera, one of the matatu owners said preventing the disease starts with each individual. “The first person to fight the disease is me. When I meet passengers, I don’t know who they met so I have to be very careful and encourage other people to follow my steps. I can be an ambassador of the messages,” he stated.

One of the Kenyan public minivans or matatus spray painted with COVID-19 prevention messages as part of a UN-Habitat initiative
One of the Kenyan public minivans or matatus spray painted with COVID-19 prevention messages as part of a UN-Habitat initiative
UNHabitat/Julius Mwelu