Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on lifestyle, mental health, and well-being of adults and children in Kenya
The COVID-19 pandemic sent the world spinning off its axis, leaving a whirlwind of diverse effects on the human population. The Kenyan government implemented various measures to curb the insidious spread of the disease. These included massive lockdowns, quarantines, and travel bans.
This article details its impact on the well-being, lifestyle, and mental health of adults and children in Kenya.
How Covid-19 Impacted Our Lifestyle
While the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place with good intentions- to keep both children and adults safe from getting infected by the virus- they caused a drastic change to their way of life. Here are some of the ways they were affected.
Bonding better with their parents: Children who rarely saw their busy parent(s) were able to experience living with them for longer. This allowed them enough quality time to build, and refine relationships with their parents.
Learning to do house chores and other skills: Staying at home helped many children learn basic house chores like cleaning the house, laundering clothes, and skills like cooking. Some parents taught their children skills like designing and sewing clothes, basket and mat weaving, and hair braiding.
Less accessibility to studying: Based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch across 8 African nations and Kenya, Kenyan students lamented the lack of face-to-face communication with their teachers, limited internet data, and the lack of enough self-study materials.
Another had to take up self-studying using Google and YouTube as their school failed to set up online classes. And according to the report, Promises to keep: Impact of COVID-19 on adolescents in Kenya, 16% of girls and 8% of boys dropped out of school.
Unhealthy ‘TVing’ and gaming: Children whose weekly routine included waking up, saying a prayer, greeting parents (and a plethora of other things as ingrained by the nursery school teachers) before going to school, studying, playing, and doing homework, found that they woke up every day to stay in the confines of their homes/homesteads.
They ended up adopting new activities like watching TV and playing video games to fill their playtime with
Less access to outdoor exercises: the lockdown required one to stay home, so exercising was only limited to one’s home. People had to adapt to working out within their homes.
Remote working; As directed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, many people had to stop traveling to their places of work and instead do so from home.
Home entertainment: Public places like bars, cinema halls, stadiums were all off-limits, so people had to resort to finding entertainment through TVs, radios, and the internet.
Spending less on needs: In an article about COVID-19 forcing Kenyan people (in Mukuru) to make complicated food and household energy decisions, Matthew Shupler and Dan Pope write, “Many people surveyed had lost their jobs and could not afford clean cooking fuels…Also, due to a loss of income, some households opted for cheaper foods.”
Sharing smartphones/tablets/laptops with their children: the mode of education required that children had access to the hardware. Parents who could not afford had to buy their children one had to share those gadgets with them.
Some of the changes were experienced by both children and adults, like overeating and oversleeping.
How Our Mental health Was Affected During the Covid-19 Lock-Down
The confusion, despair, loneliness, and loss that adults and children suffered through the pandemic caused a strain on their mental health. Below, we explore these effects in greater detail.
A report by UNICEF dated 5, October 2021, representative to Kenya, Maniza Zaman, states that children suffered learning loss during school closures and were at greater risk of violence.
A research article about patterns of sexual violence against adults and children during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya- on BMJ Open- an online medical journal- predicts that children would, due to school closures and a lack of alternative safe spaces, be at a greater risk to sexual violence.
Also, Promises to Keep, a report from the Population Council and the Executive Office of the President of Kenya, indicates that 52% of boys and 39% girls reported suffering physical violence and that half of the number of children on whom they carried out research were showing signs of depression.
According to a UNICEF estimate, at least 1 out of 7 children has been directly affected by the lockdown. And more than 1.6 billion children have lost some educational opportunities.
The UNICEF report further indicates that many young people are terrified, furious, and concerned about their future because of disruptions to routines, education, and recreation, as well as concerns about family income and health.
Domestic disputes have snowballed into resentment and violence for adults living within their families, especially since people have no space or time to deal with their feelings.
Parents/guardians who have lost their source of income are under pressure (internal and external) to find new avenues of taking care of their families. This has led to people experiencing constant anxiety, despair, and fear.
The ones that live alone have been overwhelmed by the lack of social interaction, causing them to become distressed. Sometimes loneliness leads one to focus on the negatives in their life. It makes them less confident and beats their self-esteem.
Some mental disorders associated with the Covid-19 pandemic that was reported diagnosed included; anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and conduct disorder.
Impact of the Covid Pandemic On Our well-being
Oxford Languages dictionary describes well-being as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. From the above information, it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic impact on the well-being of both adults and children has been largely negative.
However, to increase body immunity, people started to eat healthy combinations of vegetables and fruits. Also, proper sanitation was implemented as one of the key ways to prevent the virus from spreading. This meant constant sanitizing of one’s hands and all surfaces that people touch.
People have started to exercise more as it’s also a recommended measure to keep the virus at bay. Facial masks have become the new normal, as they keep one from inhaling the virus, toxic gases, and dust.
But more people have lost jobs and businesses, so; they are not living comfortably. To top it all off, it has taken away so many people’s loved ones – people are grieving and struggling to heal.
Children who haven’t been able to access online studies are frustrated with the never-ending cycle of attending a similar class for two years due to the pandemic. Others have lost their parents to the pandemic or are suffering violence due to the parents’ frustrations.
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