“Dani!” (“grandma” in the local language, Luo) crows little James as he grabs his grandmother’s hand. She feels for his head and puts her hand on his small shoulder, her gaze bound forward. 75-year-old Leonida is blind. She is sitting in an armchair in her small clay hut in Kibuon, a village in Kisumu County, Western Kenya. Her three grandchildren James (3), Steven (5) and Gerald (7) are sitting next to her on water cans. Since their father passed away three years ago, the children are semi-orphans. Leonida only knows that her son suffered from a terrible headache. They did not get a diagnosis. Her daughter-in-law Monica works in the fields during the day. She leaves the house early in the morning and often returns late in the evening. Her salary is all that sustains the small family. Before the Corona pandemic, Leonida was able to earn a bit of money by begging. Now, strict government-enforced rules make this impossible.
Curfew and Heavy Rains Worsen the Situation
The challenges faced by Leonida and her son’s family are shared by many widows of the St. Monica Village cooperative. Some children have lost both parents. In these cases, the grandmothers are left as the only caretakers for the children. The old women earned most of their income during evening hours, when workers return home and do their shopping in the market. But now curfew starts at 7pm and there are less jobs and sources of income overall due to the coronavirus pandemic. The widow’s cooperative, for example, had to discontinue their lucrative catering service. Only small groups of people are now allowed to gather for celebrations and funerals.