This got us thinking about the spatial disparities in COVID-19 related activities across the settlement. We started thinking back to our field research in a neighbourhood of Kibera by the river named ‘Andolo’. Andolo means ‘Deep Sleep’ in Swahili, to signify that the area that has been forgotten by the government and NGOs. Might Andolo also be in a deep sleep when it comes to access to handwashing stations and people handing out masks?
This is where mapping comes into play. A phrase in Geography 101 is that ‘Spatial is Special’ – meaning that processes can be better understood when we start to map them. The birth of spatial analysis is often heralded as Dr John Snow mapping Cholera outbreaks in Soho (London). Identifying the cluster of cases linked to the Broad Street water pump on the map fundamentally changed our understanding of the disease from airborne to water borne.
How mapping interventions can help
In a world where most of us have access to Google maps in our pocket, you might think it would be easy to identify spatial patterns of COVID-19 interventions. But slums generally look like blank spaces on the map – they are often illegal or unregistered and change rapidly. This means official data is at best, incomplete, at worst non-existent. Looking at Kibera in Google maps, you would be forgiven for thinking this was a village with a few shops and schools – certainly not home to nearly 10% of the population of Nairobi.
In the absence of official data and within the constraints of not being able to do any field visits, we are turning to the crowd and using online mapping to identify the spatial patterns of COVID-19 interventions in Kibera. This includes working with our local partner KDI to develop an app-based survey to inventory the locations and types of activities taking place in Kibera.
From this, we can identify the spatial hotspots – areas that are buzzing with COVID-related activities, and most importantly, the cold spots where people are not being reached. This data will be shared in an open, online map to guide where new interventions should be targeted.