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But it’s possible to take precautions so that our physical and social intimacy doesn’t become a death sentence during this time of coronavirus.

It’s impossible to social distance from my wife. But it’s possible to take precautions so that our physical and social intimacy doesn’t become a death sentence during this time of coronavirus. As we social distance from the workplace and marketplace, we retreat into our homes. Because other family members have also retreated back home, families across this nation now have a golden opportunity to spend quality time with each other. This is one of the silver linings of this raging coronavirus cloud.

Guess what? Life must continue and that is why we need to point out and embrace the silver linings in this coronavirus cloud.

A multinational food delivery company has spotted a silver lining in these troubled times and is capitalising on it fully. This company has waived food delivery fees, encouraging more people to order for food to be delivered to their homes. Struggling restaurants can borrow a leaf. This home delivery upsurge is taking root elsewhere in the world. In the last couple of weeks, at least one in five Americans ordered their groceries online. This is a significant growth compared to the same period last year.

Although most Kenyans still buy their groceries from neighbourhood grocers, popularly known as mama mboga, young coding gurus should work towards connecting our mama mbogas to such online markets.

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Now that more people are washing hands multiple times a day, there will be a surge in sale of soap. This presents an opportunity to chamas that make soap to tap into a wider market. Kenya Bureau of Standards should step up quality assurance of these soaps so that consumers can buy them with confidence. 

Another silver lining lies in regulating the herbal sector. Aloe Vera is a proven natural antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and immune booster. Unfortunately, the current alcohol-based hand sanitisers dry up the hands and therefore become uncomfortable. However, Aloe Vera nourishes your skin while keeping coronavirus away. Can you visualise the magnanimous impact to small scale farmers, if for instance, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed that Rev Dennis Tongoi of Herbal Garden and others be supported to mainstream Aloe Vera based sanitisers? The farmers with over 200 acres of Aloe Vera plantation would social distance with a smile on their faces!

The therapeutic power of herbs and plants is, however, not limited to herbal products. For me as an environmentalist, I am heartened that this pandemic has opened the eyes of humanity to the healing power of nature. In Britain, the National Trust has granted the public free access to its parks and gardens during the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike closed rooms and enclosures, parks, gardens and forests are able to accommodate many people while guaranteeing them social distancing. As such, we have an opportunity to reconnect with nature at our forests, parks and such natural spaces.

On the public health front, things have never looked better. It is now common to find sanitisers at the entrance of all public places. Such unprecedented focus on public health augurs well for our health both in the short and long term. This must continue far beyond the coronavirus threat.

From 2013 to 2017, Kenya spent an average of 7.1 per cent of the total budget on the health sector. This figure needs to rise to a minimum of 15 per cent. These are not my words but a commitment that was made in 2001 by Heads of State of African Union Countries. The Abuja Commitment of 2001 captured this commitment. Coronavirus is a stark reminder that we need to hold our governments accountable and ensure that budgetary allocations for health rise to 15 per cent if not more.

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Global health spending on health was $7.8 trillion in 2017, which was about 10 per cent of GDP. This is almost double Kenya’s average spending on health over the last few years. More money for the health sector will translate to a drastically strengthened public health sector that will build on current gains.

Let me hasten to add that finding a silver lining doesn’t mean exploiting vulnerable people. Rather, a financially profitable silver lining should help people, particularly those who are vulnerable, to meet their needs during this difficult period. 

I recently composed a song dubbed ‘Worry Not’ which we sung with The CITAM Men’s Chorale. These two words capture the spirit that we should embrace at this trying period for Kenya and the rest of the world. Worry not, hope reigns supreme. Moreover, in every crisis there lies an opportunity. We can only identify such opportunities once we think green and act green!

- The writer is founder and chairperson, Green Africa Foundation. www.isaackalua.co.ke

Covid-19 Coronavirus

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