Sonko, Badi wars have crippled city pandemic response

Monday, August 17th, 2020 00:00 |
Nairobi Metropolitan Services director Maj-Gen Mohamed Badi. Photo/PD/FILE

It was shocking to learn that Nairobi is yet to attain the Government’s target of 300 isolation beds for Covid-19 patients.

More so because this should have been a walk in the park for a county with many fully established medical facilities.

Instead, it has relied on national government facilities mainly Kenyatta National Hospital and Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital, both which still receive their usual referrals from across the country. Even Mbagathi County Hospital was prepared by the national government.

These facilities are now under pressure from Covid-19 patients who should have been getting treatment at county facilities.

At this point in time, there should be no pressure on health facilities in the country due to Covid-19.

Further, when compared to Mombasa and Kilifi, the other two counties where the first cases were reported in March 2020, and which have since flattened their infection curves completely, Nairobi’s caseload continues to rise exponentially. What has gone wrong in Nairobi?

Clearly, the difference is that Nairobi’s Covid-19 fight is rudderless. In other counties, especially when they are facing community transmission, the face of the fight is the governor, whether that is Lee Kinyanjui in Nakuru,  James Ongwae in Kisii, Ali Roba in Mandera, Amason Kingi in Kilifi etc.

Imagine it, nobody has addressed Nairobi residents since Covid-19 started despite it being the pandemic’s epicentre. Nairobi’s Covid-19 battle has no leader, no champion.

The problem is that there are two antagonistic centres of power- Governor Mike Sonko, and Director General of Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), General Mohammed Badi.

President Uhuru Kenyatta brokered a truce between the two last week. They should both use this to make a fresh start in the battle against Covid-19 in Nairobi. If Nairobi does not heal, the country will not reset.

When Nairobi’s daily infection figures fall to double digits for two weeks, the country can start reconfiguring to reopen fully, including schools, of course, with all containment protocols.

All that this requires is 30 days of serious work to break the transmission chain. But this can only happen if Sonko and Badi work together as a team.

They must both realise that none can wish the other away, that’s why the President brought them together to forge a common front and unity of purpose.

They should realise that if they continue the wars, none will achieve their goals. They are Siamese twins, bound at the hip. So, where do we go from here?

Nairobi County must take urgent measures in the Covid-19 fight. Deploy the 300 isolation and ICU beds immediately, rejuvenate and revamp contact tracing that had worked so well initially, and consistently enforce protocols like wearing of masks in public, social distancing, no gatherings, and sanitization and washing hands at matatu and bus stages.

Informal settlements should have a special focus, with sanitization booths and handwashing facilities at all entry points, universal access to water, and make soap and masks available to all families through nyumba kumi.

Handwashing points must be established across the city. The initial ones set up in the central business district have fallen into disuse. Failure of leadership.

The two gentlemen can both be the face of the battle against Covid-19 in Nairobi. Egos have no place as this crisis rages. 

They should appear together when making announcements on Covid-19 or launching  projects.

And they need to be seen every day for the next 30 days working to eliminate Covid-19, not fighting. Let’s get serious!

They both have unique strengths. Sonko is the mobiliser, and will marshall Nairobians to do battle, as Governor Hassan Joho did so effectively in Mombasa, while Gen. Badi has the entire state machinery behind him to mobilise the massive resources needed for a full scale attack on the infection curve. 

Each should play to their strengths. They might even end up liking one another.

Or even find they have successfully piloted a hybrid administrative model that works for Nairobi County.

Sonko and Badi, for the sake of Nairobians and the rest of Kenyans, unite at least for the duration needed to defeat Covid-19. You’ll be surprised at the results. [email protected]

More on News