Visualising COVID-19 in Kenya


This photo essay collates images (both found and captured by contributors themselves) to offer perspectives on COVID-19 in Kenya. This essay is part of ongoing work by the Research Data KE Working Group to understand COVID-19 experiences in Kenya. Contributors listed in alphabetical order by last name.

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Background on COVID-19 in/from/about Kenya

The Research Data KE Working Group continues to collates news and public discourse that are of interest to thinking about the COVID19 epidemic in/from/about Kenya. We are particularly interested in archiving and tracking how media and other public channels are discussing the pandemic in order to identify relevant research resources and translate our individual experiences and data into collective knowledge that can support communities. We plan to use this information to better identify and collate existing qualitative/ethnographic research resources across diverse thematic areas relevant to thinking about and working on the COVID 19 global pandemic. We are collaborating on this project with the Transnational STS COVID-19 Project.

"Wear a Mask": COVID-19 prevention sign outside butchery in rural Kenya

This sign was posted on a glass window of a butchery in a Kenyan rural town (Nyeri). The butchery uses English to remind customers of accepted COVID-19 prevention protocols with the sign reminding the reader to wear a face mask. This message reflects an adoption and acceptance of disease prevention communication even in a rural context.

COVID-19 prevention sign outside butchery in rural Kenya

These posters were posted on the entry door of a butchery in rural Kenya (Nyeri). The top sign refers to anyone with COVID-19 as a 'suspect' who is unwelcome in the butchery. The bottom sign provides directions in graphical form for how to wash one's hands, just above a container with fresh water. It is set outside for customers to wash their hands before they enter the butchery. The hostility and caution reflected in the two signs reflect the multiple, sometimes contrasting views held towards the coronavirus pandemic. The signs indicate an acceptance and recognition of the pandemic's spread and reach, as well as a stigmatisation of those infected with the virus.

COVID-19  signage outside a rural butchery

COVID-19 message in rural Kenya

Wambui: The COVID-19 signage outside this butchery in rural Kenya has changed slightly in the past year. This year (2021) the focus is on inviting customers to get their temperature checked and to wear masks and wash hands as they enter the premises. Last year, in the pandemic, the signage include a warning for those with COVID-19 symptoms not to enter at all. The earlier message suggested a stigmatising of those who had been infected. A year later, there seems to be less fear of the disease, so that customers are not potentially stigmatised yet are urged to remain vigilant in avoiding infection. 

Private Schools Seeking Alternative Income Sources

AO: This image (by Reuters) was captioned with the following: "The owners of some private schools have turned to alternative sources of income such as raising chickens." Schools were shut in March 2020 as part of lockdown measures in Kenya. There has been a see-saw between opening or not opening public schools in 2020. Due to the closures, many private schools have struggled to survive without an income from pupil fees, which has led them to try to find alternative sources of income (e.g. chicken rearing).

Kenyan citizens protest in Nairobi against government corruption

This photo, taken by Reuters' Baz Ratner on August 21, 2021, was originally captioned: "A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against suspected corruption in the response of the Kenyan government to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak." This image is important to recognize that these protests of corruption transpired directly prior to the IMF issuing new additional government loans, (which are ostensibly to help alleviate the economic burden that COVID-19 has had on citizens). These new loans have led to widespread public outcry in April 2021 over the issuing of these additional loans to a corrupt national government.

COVID 19 Vaccine in Kenya

Aurelia: The image represents a common scenario that has been happening in Kenya and I guess the rest of the world; COVID 19 vaccination. The dominant conversation has been about sensitising reluctant Kenyan including health workers to get vaccinated. Suspicion about the quality, type and agenda of  vacination in Kenya is not new. There have been previous debates about HPV vaccines for young girls; under five vaccinations. 

I am currently interested in understanding where the vaccination suspicion emerges from, how this fear is spread and sustained. 

Shupler et al. 2021. ‘COVID-19 Impacts on Household Energy & Food Security in a Kenyan Informal Settlement."

This "graphical abstract" from a scientific study that conveniently began data collection prior to COVID (late 2019) and then conducted a follow-up in April 2020 (see more on the method and process described in this public piece here) found that inequities in clean cooking fuel access may have been exacerbated by COVID-19 lockdown and they hypothesized that health effects related to the resulting air pollution would result. I include this image partly to highlight the issues related to changes in energy and food security that COVID has brought but also to highlight how research and data collection continue under COVID.


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Created date

September 10, 2020

Cite as

Aurelia Munene, Syokau Mutonga, Leo Mutuku, Joyce Wangari Ngugi, Angela Okune, hawi rapudo and Wambui Wamunyu . 10 September 2020, "Visualising COVID-19 in Kenya", Research Data Share, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 19 May 2021, accessed 21 July 2024.