On Covid hotline, no topic is taboo

Thursday, August 20th, 2020 00:00 |
Intensive Care Unit beds and other general health facilities at a hospital in Kerugoya, Kirinyaga county. PD/FILE

Majority of Kenyans call the government’s toll free number for the Covid-19 pandemic to complain about relationships and job losses.

A survey conducted by the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus on mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) reveals that most Kenyans are concerned about job losses, food aid, financial support, gender-based violence in particular defilement, failing relationships, suicide ideations and stress.

The committee used the Ministry of Health’s 719 and Red Cross toll free number 1199 to assess problems of 9,140 people who reached out to the government for assistance as the effects of the pandemic continue to take their toll.

Toll free numbers

And most of the people complaining about the effects of Covid-19 on their lives are those between 20 and 30 years, followed by those between 41 to 50 and lastly 51 to 60. Individuals in the age bracket of 61-70 years are the least to call the numbers. 

Other issues callers, the majority who happened to have been in Nairobi, sought assistance for included illuminati, abortion, court cases and housing. 

Others are: Covid-19 disclosure, unplanned pregnancy and self-esteem issues.

Both civilians and health workers have reportedly been affected with the latter forming the highest number of individuals affected with stigma.

The survey was conducted between July 20 and August 5; results were released on August 14, 2020.

In terms of the distribution by counties, residents of Nairobi lead, followed by Nakuru, Mombasa, Kisumu, Meru, Laikipia, Bungoma, Busia, Embu and Taita Taveta.

Residents of Narok, Lamu, Kilifi, Isiolo, Elgeyo Marakwet and Samburu are the least disturbed by the pandemic.

The report discloses that only eight counties in the country have well constituted and functional mental health psychosocial support while the other 39 devolved units lack functional teams.

Healthcare workers

The committee wants the government to decentralise and oversight existing county structures by posting more counsellors and tele-psychiatry platforms.

Thirty seven per cent of health workers in the country have neither been counselled nor given any follow up despite working in an unfriendly environment.

Interestingly, stigma is high among healthcare workers who are picked up from their work places or residences by ambulances or Covid-19 response vehicles after testing positive.

Also hugely affected, the report states, are healthcare workers who are required to report back to work after treatment for the Covid-19.

The healthcare workers also want change in the manner in which their Covid-19 status is relayed to them.

There was a lot of concern that in most institutions, an individual receives test results from the human resource department while in a group while some receive them through SMS.

‘’This mode of results transmission caused psychological trauma. In some cases, results took very long to be relayed back while in some cases, some results persistently remained positive,” the report indicates.

Another major concern among most healthcare workers is their continued exposure to their colleagues and clients even after testing positive.

The respondents also asked the government to come up with a strategy to ensure healthcare workers are not retained unnecessarily at isolation centres.

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