Most families can barely make ends meet, new survey shows

Monday, June 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Coronavirus effects. Photo/Courtesy

The socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is now being felt more intensely in many homes with a majority of Kenyans unable to make ends meet, a survey has found.

While initially many urban residents were struggling to pay rent, a majority of Kenyans are now incapable of buying food, servicing loans, buying medicine for themselves and their families as well as paying for electricity, gas, kerosene or charcoal, the survey shows.

According to the report by Infotrak Research and Consulting released yesterday, at least 87 per cent of Kenyans said they are struggling to feed their families because the cost of food had significantly increased.

Another 68 per cent said they cannot afford energy, 67 per cent are incapable of comfortably paying for their utilities like water and electricity, while 67 per cent cannot afford medicine.

The research firm’s special projects manager, Walter Nyabundi, said that with increased unemployment, underemployment, threats to job security and salary cuts, most Kenyans are increasingly coming to terms with the economic impact of the pandemic.

“The poll shows that most people are unable to make ends meet as they did before causing them immense psychological stress and restlessness. The resounding cry from Kenyans in this poll is clear,

‘We cannot breathe!’ Please ease the pressure on our necks and allow us to breathe,” said Nyabundi during a virtual presentation of the latest opinion poll findings.

“A majority of Kenyans said they are faced with a myriad of financial challenges ranging from high cost of food prices to inability to pay for basic needs like housing.

This has increased psychological stress and financial pressures owing to their inability to make ends,” he added.

When asked about effects of news updates on coronavirus, a majority of Kenyans, 78 per cent, said they had scaled down watching the press conferences saying they had become a source of stress. 

“At least 48 per cent find it (news) confusing, 49 per cent said it is repetitive and boring, while 46 per cent and 8 per cent said it is complicated and exaggerated, respectively.”

On mental wellbeing, the poll found that 81 per cent of Kenyans are feeling anxious about what is happening, 68 per cent said they are feeling confused and 61 per cent said they felt lonely.

According to the poll, at least 52 per cent said they felt helpless, while 36 per cent of said they feel mistreated and are having a hard time sleeping. At least 33 per cent of the respondents said they felt angry.

Poll findings

Infotrak director Angela Ambitho said: “We are in a Catch-22 situation because we have to eke a living from an economy that was already strained before the coronavirus pandemic, now worsened by issues that are piling up including pay cuts, confinement and uncertainties in the education sector.”

The poll findings were released shortly before Health CS Mutahi Kagwe announced that the country had recorded 260 new Covid-19 cases, the highest in the country has recorded in a single day, with fatalities rising to 123 after two more people succumbed.  

Yesterday’s cases bring the total number of positive cases in the country to 4,738.

Mutahi spoke as the country marked 100 days the since the first case was recorded in Kenya on March 13.

In yesterday’s Infotrak poll findings, 79 per cent of the 1,200 people sampled said they can no longer remit money to dependants back home while 75 per cent said they have been unable to repay formal and informal loans.

“The problem does not end with the inability to pay for basic necessities… the rent crisis facing most urban Kenyans is real with 63 per cent of them saying they are unable to pay their rent on time and 60 per cent said they are unable to pay their rent in full,” said Nyabundi.

At least half of employed Kenyans, 54 per cent, stated that they are facing financial challenges because their salaries have been reduced while 47 per cent said they are currently depending on some sort of food donation from well wishers.

Presidential directive

The poll showed that 41 per cent of Kenyans consider coronavirus a personal financial issue while 35 per cent see the disease as both a personal and health issue.

At least 16 per cent said coronavirus is a personal health concern.

These were findings of a survey conducted between May 28 and June 2, with interviews conducted through Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews (CATI).

A sample of 1,200 respondents were interviewed and covered 24 out of the 47 counties. At the same time, the survey showed that the reduction on Value Added Tax is yet to benefit Kenyans.

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently outlined measures to cushion Kenyans against negative economic impacts of the virus.

Among them was the reduction of VAT from 16 per cent to 14 per cent.

Asked whether the Presidential directive has made goods and services cheaper, 72 per cent of Kenyans said they are yet to benefit while 28 per cent responded in the affirmative. 

The highest number of those who said the presidential directive has not benefitted them was from North Eastern at 82 per cent then Central and Nairobi with 81 per cent each.

At least 78 per cent of Kenyans from the western part of the country said the directive is yet to bear fruits while the lowest percentage was recorded in Eastern at 47 per cent.

“Eastern recorded the highest percentage, 53 per cent, of people who said they have benefitted from the presidential directive while North Eastern had the lowest number at 18 per cent of people who think the directive has helped,” said Nyabundi.

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