The pillars driving Kenya’s resilience against coronavirus

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020 00:00 |
We will not be able to return immediately to life as it was before.

Peter Murumba   

As the Covid-19 scourge sweeps across the world, Kenya has largely been spared the mayhem in countries worst hit by the pandemic such as the US, Spain, Italy and the UK.

Health experts continue to warn us that if social distancing and other preventive measures put in place are not sustained, infections could escalate exponentially, with deadly consequences.

Although the Covid-19 cases in Kenya remain far below the official projections of 5,000 cases by mid-April, we must upscale efforts to tame the pandemic.

Compliance to the measures in informal settlements, market places and other settings should be escalated to decrease chances of community transmissions. 

Sustained preventive measures will save many lives. Prevention is the first pillar in a four-pronged strategy underpinning Kenya’s resilience to the deadly virus.

The other three pillars we must focus on are financial resource mobilisation, building manufacturing capacity and protecting vulnerable groups.

Mobilising adequate financial resources is crucial to supporting short-term interventions while easing pressure on the Exchequer.

The  efforts to tame the virus require emergency funding on unprecedented scale. This demands collaboration between the State, the private and civil sectors.

This is already happening through the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund, a joint government-private sector initiative, which has so far raised over Sh1 billion to assist vulnerable groups.

But as President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed, the Fund needs to be innovative and responsive to the evolving circumstances so as to effectively fulfil its mandate.

In addition, the country continues to receive financial support from multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank.

Financial resources are also coming from unexpected sources. On April 7, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission handed over Sh2 billion corruption proceeds to boost Covid-19 response. The Central Bank handed over another Sh7 billion from the demonetisation process.

But as we source funding, we must seriously ramp up local manufacturing capacity to meet the high demand for personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other essential supplies.

There is a global PPE shortage owing to high demand and supply chain disruptions.   

Lack of PPEs exposes our frontline medical personnel and the public to the risk of contracting the virus.

As a result, increasing PPE availability is critical to enhancing the capacity of our hospitals to cope with Covid 19.  

Since everyone is now required by law to wear a mask in public, demand for affordable masks has already shot up. There lies a huge opportunity for the textile industry.  

Rivatex is currently producing over 8,000 face masks daily, while the Kitui County Textile Centre is now manufacturing 30,000 face masks daily.

Local production of PPEs creates employment and saves the country billions of shillings that could have been spent on imported protective gear.

Enhancing local manufacturing capacity must go hand-in-glove with innovation. We have to support local innovators including our universities and research institutions.

This rich reservoir of innovative talent is exemplified by a group of students at Kenyatta University who have put together a ventilator prototype for the local market.    

Finally, we have to sustainably cushion the most vulnerable groups in society especially the elderly and the poor from the effects of the disease.

All these interventions will serve to boost the country’s short-term resilience to Covid-19. —The writer is the Managing Director of Impulso Kenya 

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