State should ensure every Kenyan has food during this difficult time

Coronavirus could not have chosen a worse time to strike Kenya. It came as Kenyans were fighting huge swarms of locusts, sometimes with nothing but bare hands. It came crashing down while companies were recording losses and as a result whittling down operations and personnel.

Covid-19 came while the government coffers were almost dry -- it had only Sh2.8b by end of February. And as if that is not enough, Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) management says there are no grains in the stores. No money, no jobs, an empty SFR and Covid-19. That’s a lethal combination.

Of course, as we have pointed out here before, besides locusts, most of our problems are of our own making. Had the government borrowed less, for instance, perhaps we would have a richer Covid-19 war chest.

But this is not a time for apportioning blame or even scabrous recriminations. That can wait. It’s time to come up with solutions that can help slay the monster that threatens our very survival.

Luckily, the government is doing what it can under the circumstances. It is working hard to ensure that health workers access protective gear and has tasked textile manufacturers to make face masks for the general populace. It is also procuring ventilators and drugs to deal with the current emergency.

But it must do more. It must ensure that no one dies of hunger during this critical time. Already, with the partial shutdown in some counties and the dusk-to-dawn curfew, some families are suffering from hunger pangs.

The situation is expected to get worse if the government makes good its threat to impose a total lockdown due to the public’s failure to heed its directives. Going by the daily surge in number of infections, this might just happen.

But there is good news. The government clarified yesterday that the country has enough food. Businesspeople should now buy that food and distribute it where it is needed.

However, there are those who cannot afford to buy food as they have been rendered jobless. They need help. The situation will get dire as we continue with this painful journey.

Many more people will be looking upon the government for succour. Ideally, government would have raided the SFR to feed the hungry, but that is not an option now.

Consequently, it should consider giving vulnerable people an allowance so that they can buy food to enable them stay at home as recommended.