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'Coronavirus, Locusts': Is Kenya Prepared For Disasters?

"We expect the Health officials to protect us from deadly diseases without any compromise."

In Summary

• As can be seen, there are areas of public health, agriculture, rains and other things like earthquakes that will always be with us and for which we must be prepared for.

Is Kenya prepared for disasters?/REUTERS
Is Kenya prepared for disasters?/REUTERS

A country must always be prepared for all types of disasters.

The Government must not allow its citizens to suffer unnecessarily because of its disaster unpreparedness.

There are many types of disasters that countries normally prepare for.

For example, we have early warning systems that tell us in advance that we are likely to run short of foodstuff; that Ebola is causing havoc daily in Eastern Congo. We know in advance that heavy rains will cause flooding and hill slides in some area and we even know those area.

As can be seen, there are areas of public health, agriculture, rains and other things like earthquakes that will always be with us and for which we must be prepared for.

When we are caught by these as if we are unaware, then we must question the ability of our government to protect us.

Some body and some institutions must be held responsible. We pay taxes and, therefore, expect that the Meteorological Department will give us accurate weather predications so that we can plan our affairs correctly.

We expect the Health officials to protect us from deadly diseases without any compromise. Luckily for a government, there are UN Agencies that are charged with the responsibility of helping us in some of these areas.

They often warn us in advance of pending disasters.Let me focus on two disasters where even the UN Agencies, FAO and WHO had or have given us early warning and yet we acted as if we had not been aware.

Our country was advised by FAO of the pending desert locust disaster sometime ago. For locusts to come from Yemen , cross the Red Sea, travel across parts of Ethiopia and Somalia and reach Kenya and we then are found unprepared, something is very wrong. Somebody should pay the price for this carelessness.We are facing a serious economic crisis as a result of this locust disaster.

Many parts of this country are now under attack by locusts and we should expect a food crisis and some of our exports may b3 affected. All you need to do is talk to farmers in those affected areas in order to appreciate the magnitude of the problem.

We keep hearing that we did not have enough pesticides. How is this possible ? This being Kenya, we may even have had poor quality pesticide. Did we move fast enough to purchase sufficient quantities or were we caught up in bureaucratic delays.

Why did we not coordinate with our neighboring countries in advance as this is regional problem. These are the questions that many Kenyans are asking especially after hearing that the FAO had alerted our countries. May be we should declare this a national disaster and seek external help if we are unable to handle it on our own.

After all, we did so with HIV Crisis successfully.My second example is that of the new coronavirus that has recently caused havoc in China and which is developing into an international crisis.

The WHO, has again warned African countries to prepare for this but it is concerned about our ability to deal with it. It has gone ahead to warn that Africa is the least prepared continent when this virus reaches here. This is a fast spreading virus from what we are being told and when it reaches here we should expect many deaths.

There are many rumours as to the correctness of number of deaths that China is publicly announcing.  Nonetheless, the important question is whether our Ministry of Health has the capacity to deal with the potential pending crisis.It is questionable as to whether we have the laboratory capacity to handle it.

Are we stocking the medicines and appropriate supplies ? Are we giving our health staff and the public sufficient education on what precautions to take ? What are we doing to protect our border points, such as airports and roads entry points ? We all saw the frightening picture of how we handled a flight from China that arrived at JKIA with 230 passengers recently.

Even if Kenya Airways has stopped going to China, that does not mean that there are no people traveling to and from there through other airlines. It is for this reason that we should arrange to have enough quarantine facilities in the country.

I mean quarantine and not self quarantines where we trust people to do so on their own as we saw during the arrival of the China flight. We must not gable with the lives of our people. The Government must understand that the public is angry with the manner in which it has handled the two disasters so far.In conclusion, I appeal to our various government institutions to be ready to tackle these disasters on a timely and professional manner in the future.

I have deliberately chosen to been alarmist as even one life lost due to slow action is not acceptable.