Resilience in a Kenyan informal settlement during the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Stephen Vertigans Robert Gordon University
  • Natascha Mueller-Hirth Robert Gordon University
  • Fredrick Okinda Komb Green Solutions



COVID-19, informal settlement, Kenya, Korogocho, resilience


Informal settlements have been identified as locations both where the spread of COVID-19 has generally been slower than within the Global North and measures to restrain the pandemic have further intensified local peoples’ marginality as income decreases without welfare or financial safety nets. In this paper, qualitative fieldwork is detailed which commenced in Korogocho, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, immediately prior to national COVID-19 restrictions. This March 2020, pre-COVID phase of the fieldwork focused on a community-based project and the basis for resilience in transforming local lives. During the next 12 months of the pandemic fieldwork continued, exploring experiences and reactions to restraining policies. These findings reinforce concerns about the impact of COVID-19 related restrictions on marginalised peoples’ income, food security, health, safety and gender-based violence. How the local people reacted to these effects highlights their creative resilience and adaptability. The paper concludes by examining the impact of, and responses to, the controlling measures on the social relationships and cohesion that underpins the community resilience.


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Author Biographies

Natascha Mueller-Hirth, Robert Gordon University

Natascha Mueller-Hirth is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland. Her research utilises qualitative methodologies to examine issues around peace and conflict, violence, gender and development, geographically primarily focusing on South Africa and Kenya. A particular interest is temporality and the politics of time in relation to transitional justice and peacebuilding. She is co-editor of Time and Temporality in Transitional and Post-Conflict Societies (2018) and co-author of The Sociology of Everyday Life Peacebuilding (2018).

Fredrick Okinda, Komb Green Solutions

Fredrick Okinda has been the Chair of Komb Green since the group formed in 2017. Dropping out of secondary education contributed to him becoming involved in criminal activities. After reforming, Fredrick was trained in Riparian Eco Systems. He adapted this training and, with Komb Green, transformed a dump site into Korogocho’s Peoples Park. Since forming Komb Green has changed the lives of over 300 young people. Fredrick is currently further developing riparian areas and restoring the Nairobi river.


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