Nairobi, May 2020 – Young artists in Nairobi’s informal settlement Mathare are using their talent to educate residents about how to prevent COVID-19 through brightly coloured murals. A youth group, known as Mathare Roots Youth Initiative, came up with the idea after hearing about similar work in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak.
The youth were inspired during a UN-Habitat training for youth groups managing hand washing facilities in the informal settlement funded by the agency’s Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme in Mathare. The training featured some the best practices used by young people to raise awareness and pass messages and information to people in Sierra Leone.
The youth group said they were also inspired by the graffiti art seen on the vans used as public transport known as ‘matatus.’ The murals, painted on the walls of buildings, feature messages stating ‘End Corona’ and ‘Corona is Real’ mainly written in Kiswahili and Sheng, the informal language widely used in urban areas.
“We decided to put the art about the pandemic in public spaces such as areas close to taps and public toilets. As a result, people are now conscious about hygiene practices such as washing their hands,” said Lucas Odhiambo, a youth leader at Mathare Roots.
“As a youth group, we are hoping that the government will scale up these initiatives by youth. Through this initiative, we are creating a platform for upcoming creative artists to use their talents to contribute to fighting against COVID-19. And we are providing important information to combat the rumours about COVID-19.”
In the informal settlements there is widespread misinformation about COVID-19 and a lack of trust in information coming from the authorities. While many prevention methods such as regular handwashing and physical distancing are challenging, it is hoped that the murals will raise awareness and encourage communities and residents to do what they can to protect themselves and their families.