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Kenya Coronavirus: Muted Easter Services, Inside the Kibera Food Aid Stampede

Churches and other Christian places of worship have been closed across the capital Nairobi as most Easter services have moved from in-church to online.

The usual pomp and celebration that characterizes the period is gone as people observe a stay home order which is at the heart of government’s containment order of the coronavirus pandemic.

The few churches that held service did so with strict protocols from social distancing to use of face masks and provision of sanitizers. Hundreds of thousands are having to stay at home and by that cancel plans of travelling to celebrate the annual event with families in other counties.

“This is a spiritual attack. Church happens when people gather, and there are people who feel that something is amiss if they do not take sacrament. We have to keep safe and stop gathering, but it is difficult,” says Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit.

He stressed that the church was using social media platforms to reach out to the faithful. “I have asked the bishops to use technology to preach on Good Friday and Easter Sunday,” he is quoted to have said.

For his part, Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria says at the heart of Easter sermons will be celebrating family love and that Easter sermons will also be streamed online for the faithful.

“Easter is a moment of hope and celebration of victory of love over death, and light over darkness. When we have the dark clouds of corona hanging over us, we encourage people to celebrate family love, and offer each other the gift of smiles and service,” says Muheria.

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The Kibera food distribution stampede

Thousands of people surged for food aid in a brief stampede Friday in Kenya’s capital, desperate for help as coronavirus restrictions keep them from making a living. Police fired tear gas and injured several people, witnesses said.

Residents of Nairobi’s Kibera slum, spotting a food distribution, tried to force their way through a gate outside a district office for their chance at supplies to keep their families fed for another day.

The scene in Kenya’s largest slum reflected the fears of millions across Africa as nearly 20 countries have imposed full lockdowns and others have shut down cities or imposed curfews.

A vast population of informal workers, with little or no savings, worries about the next meal as no one knows when the measures will end. Already, Rwanda and South Africa have extended their lockdowns by two weeks.

In the Nairobi chaos, men with sticks beat people back as they fought over packages of food, some with face masks dangling off their chins. Some people fell and were trampled. Dust rose. Women shrieked. Injured people were carried to safety and placed on the ground to recover, gasping for breath.

“The people who have been injured here are very many, even we cannot count,” said one resident, Evelyn Kemunto. “Both women and children have been injured. There was a woman with twins, she has been injured, and even now she is looking for her twins. … It is food we were coming for since we are dying of hunger.”

The crowd had heard that popular opposition leader Raila Odinga had donated the food, said witness Richard Agutu Kongo, a 43-year-old who operates a motorcycle taxi. But in fact the distribution was from another well-wisher who had given selected families cards to turn in and receive aid, he said.

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Written by How Africa

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