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The Double Whammy: COVID-19 and Post-Election Violence Devastate Kenyan Children

The Double Whammy: COVID-19 and Post-Election Violence Devastate Kenyan Children

It was not only a sigh of relief in early 2022, but joy when the world opened up after the devastation of the Covid 19 pandemic. We had been accustomed to wearing masks and sanitising our hands. It was such a shift thereafter but a welcomed change altogether. For Kenya, this came at the height of political campaigns as we were scheduled for elections in August 2022. 

Our children had had such changes to make from online learning to hybrid and then fully physical in such a short period of time and the adults who were barely hanging by threads hardly had the skills to cope and support children. Somehow we managed. 

The elections came and we had a regime change but it was shortly followed by mass protests. Being the glass-half-full person I am, learning was and is destabilised but the pandemic taught us a thing or two about rapid agility. 

I write today with mixed emotions largely because we seem to move forward and backwards and our children are caught between clueless and heavily impacted. 

Did the pandemic have any positive impacts? Absolutely and it is great to acknowledge them because it is not ALL gloom and doom. So what were they? 

  • Increased family bonding. The pandemic forced many families to spend more time together, strengthening bonds.
  • Improved sleep habits. With fewer distractions like transit, children may have been able to get more sleep during the pandemic. 
  • Increased focus on mental health. The pandemic has raised awareness of the importance of mental health for children, and many parents have sought out mental health services for themselves and their children.
  • Increased creativity and resilience. Children had to be more creative and resilient during the pandemic, which led to long-term life skill benefits.
  • Improved appreciation for nature. With less pollution and noise, children may have developed a greater appreciation for nature during the pandemic.

    It is important to note that these positive impacts were not universal. Some children may have experienced negative impacts from the pandemic, such as increased stress or anxiety. However, for many children, the pandemic had some positive effects. 
    The COVID-19 pandemic and the post-election violence and disruption in Kenya have had a devastating impact on children. Children have faced significant challenges and will need long-term support to recover. The question is, are we well equipped? Do we have tools, skills or knowledge to not only support our children BUT to mitigate? I don’t know about you but we are still “putting out” fires and they come fast and furious. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a number of negative impacts on children’s lives. These include:

    • Social isolation: Children have been forced to spend more time at home and less time socialising with their friends and peers. This has led to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially for children who are already socially anxious or introverted.
    • Increased screen time: Children have been spending more time using screens for entertainment, learning, socialisation and communication. This has led to concerns about the impact of excessive screen time on children’s physical and mental health.
    • Changes in family dynamics: The pandemic has disrupted family routines and dynamics. Children have had to adjust to spending more time with their parents and siblings, and they may have seen their parents struggling with financial or emotional stress.
    • School closures: School closures have led to significant learning loss for many children. This is especially true for children from low-income families or those who do not have access to the Internet or other resources for remote learning.
      It is worth noting that schools offer more than education to our children. For some it is physical protection from harm, while others get to at least have a meaning a day. 

    The post-election violence and disruption in Kenya have also had a number of negative impacts on children’s lives, including:

    • Increased violence: Children have been exposed to increased violence, both directly and indirectly. They may have seen violence in their communities, or they may have been victims of violence themselves. This exposure to violence can have a significant impact on children’s mental and emotional health.
    • Increased displacement: Many children have been displaced from their homes due to the violence. This has disrupted their education, their access to healthcare, and their social networks.
    • Increased poverty: The violence has also led to increased poverty. This has made it difficult for families to meet their basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter. This can have a significant impact on children’s physical and emotional well-being.
    • Increased mental health problems: Children who have been exposed to violence or displacement are at an increased risk of developing mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These mental health problems can have a significant impact on children’s ability to learn and develop.
    • Increased risk of child labour: Children who have been displaced or who have lost their parents to violence are at an increased risk of being forced into child labour. This can have a significant impact on their physical and emotional well-being, and it can also prevent them from attending school.

    The combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the post-election violence and disruption in Kenya has been devastating for children.

    Let us try and put this into context: 
    I was born in 1987 during the late President MOI’s era, I only hear about some historic events BUT I lived through the 1998 bomb blast, it was the same period of the El Niño floods in Kenya that happened in 1997 and 1998. This was a period of exceptionally heavy rainfall, which caused widespread flooding and landslides. The floods affected millions of people across the country and caused significant damage to infrastructure and property. I know there are other significant incidents that we can quote that could have “prepared us” perhaps? I wonder, did our parents see the post-election violence in 2007 coming? Perhaps not, how about the subsequent ones that have followed?

    What can I learn from general unpreparedness? As a parent raising children in 2023, what can I do differently? What can you do differently? What can we collectively do differently?

    I know we have different capacities and strengths and access, so I just thought of a few
    ways that we can help children who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the post-election violence and disruption in Kenya:


    • Donate to organisations that are providing support to children in need.
    • Volunteer your time to help children who have been affected by the crisis.
    • Educate ourselves about the challenges that children are facing and how you can help. Follow Eveminet to learn about the “Jitume Unplugged Campaign”.
    • Advocate for policies that will support children in Kenya and beyond. 

    Every little bit helps, and together we can make a difference in the lives of children who have been affected by this crisis.

    I consider myself an intentional human and parent and I have since learned the importance of focusing on the right problem, adopting rapid agility and looking at the glass half full, being hopeful to accept the things we have control over. 

    On a very light note, there is a group of kids who don’t mind those days off school and since I was once a child, I totally understand them, so we can keep harnessing the time we have them at home with us, driving us crazy before they leave the nest, right?

    Be good, Be safe.

    Evelyn Kasina 

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