COVID-19 interventions; Bwana Kagwe and team keep on

In Summary

• CS Mutahi Kagwe and your entire team, you are doing well and a majority of Kenyans are behind you, and have followed government directives, and support your interventions, and are equally concerned about those positive cases and related challenges.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during a briefing on Monday April 13
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during a briefing on Monday April 13
Image: MERCY MUMO

The Government seems frustrated and yes for genuine reasons; that some Kenyans seem not bothered about the COVID19 pandemic. Yes, its irritating when efforts are being implemented to contain a national challenge, and rational people seem not caring. That seems the reason most senior government officers seem hard in their communication, slowly but aggressively adopting a military approach to a public health problem. It might not work well especially in government communication where behavior change is required to a population where a number has still not acknowledged the problem at hand- they are tested and tried approaches in behavior change communication, and criminalizing is not one with very positive results.

CS Mutahi Kagwe and your entire team, you are doing well and a majority of Kenyans are behind you, and have followed government directives, and support your interventions, and are equally concerned about those positive cases and related challenges. Obviously, a few, as Everest Rogers refers to as late adopters or laggards will pick up slowly, and this few should not be used to make the general conclusion.

So far, we are enhancing securitization and criminalization of the intervention as seen through the Government invoking the Public Health and Public Order management Acts in order for us to take care of our own health!  From the earlier work done on HIV and AIDS, which NACC and AMREF have great experience, we should enhance public health interventions instead of security. The messaging should focus on appeals, persuasion, education, leading and providing hope- through assuring Kenyans that Government is doing all it can, provide testing facilities, PPEs including masks to Kenyans and listening to those unable to keep the pace of changing behavior. As the infections start spreading the communities, the community need education and protection and the activation social intelligence networks and government machinery, to track people is an effective way.

There should be a vetting team to check on those found breaching the rules thus ending up in quarantine centers, so that each case is treated on merit and not blanket condemnation and punishment to all those arrested or who voluntarily turn up into the centers. Where genuine reasons are given or poverty status thus inability to pay for the quarantine or treatment is established then, support is given. Not all those positive or finding themselves in such circumstances did it deliberately thus deserve punishment.  Remember when in the war on violent extremism and radicalization, when the government declared an amnesty for those earlier recruited before firming up the amnesty policy- it almost became disastrous with returnees who people did not know what to do with. It took the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism Center and the development of the national strategy on CVE that created a multi-agency approach to the issue the country was now able to coordinate.

Kenyans must treat the war on the corona virus with respect, sincerity, seriousness, discipline and take personal responsibility. Its not about what the Government is doing or what you can make out of the war on the pandemic, or merely copying what others are saying, but the little that you are actually doing to help Kenyans.

While the issue of resources is valid and merit attention as raised by the Council of Governors, counties must show seriousness in handling and protecting citizens against this outbreak. With the supplementary budget now passed by Parliament, we hope the disbursement of the funds to the relevant agencies and counties will be fast tracked so service are given to Kenyans.  A number of counties have set up several isolation centres that are in deplorable state- no water, toilet, beds and any essentials, no training for health staff, while testing kits have not been acquired. I think, in the interim, the authorities should stop expenditure on non- essential services, look at budgets like entertainment and in extreme cases organize fund raisers targeting business persons and professionals from those regions to deal with the pandemic, instead of cheating themselves and others that something is happening yet its just s decoy. The purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (gowns, gloves, eye shields) and respiratory protection gears (masks, respirators) is a priority and even from the resources we generate daily locally, we can start somewhere.

 While some counties have taken it seriously and have mobilized health professionals from across the cadres to intensively public awareness and community involvement interventions with the little resources available, others are still stuck in lamentations. Some urgent actions like mobilizing communities to wash, dust, and disinfect homes, vehicles, gym equipment and offices, can go on.