The Covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a difficult time. However, by taking advantage of the opportunities it throws our way, we will emerge from it stronger.
Counties like Kenya do not have time to joke around. We are a developing nation in a hurry, with a very promising future and an endless potential.
The corona challenge actually gives us the opportunity to accelerate in the medium to long term. Yesterday’s announcement of measures worth Sh53.7 billion by President Uhuru Kenyatta to help businesses and Kenyans survive the economic storm was timely.
In the next few months, as more young people gain skills, their services will undoubtedly be put to good use when coronavirus is long gone, and it will pay off.
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Yesterday’s raft of measures came just weeks after the creation of the National Hygiene Programme to create jobs and protect public health. The first phase of the programme will last for the whole of this month, and will begin by employing 26,148 young workers.
The plan is to employ more than 100,000 young adults across the country and will ensure those beginning to work will do so under proper health standards and protocols, limiting the risk of coronavirus infection to a bare minimum.
When launching the programme, the president explained that the initial clusters of employment will take place in 23 informal housing communities in Kenya’s most vulnerable areas. One of the initial focuses of the programme will be making face masks, beginning with 4,048 tailors stitching 250,000 masks a day.
This complements the government’s post-corona economic recovery plan, which is already beginning to come into effect. The president explained that his administration “shall activate micro, small and medium enterprises across the country to manufacture basic medical equipment and supplies for domestic use and export”.
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As it stands, 108,000 households that have been identified as vulnerable receive cash on a regular basis as a form of immediate relief. Additionally, Sh8 billion has been allocated to senior citizens in the wake of coronavirus to cover their immediate needs.
It is imperative to deliver economic relief by combining short term necessities with long term aspirations. While the global economy is plummeting, we need more ways to help us mitigate that as much as possible. The National Hygiene Programme is organised under the umbrella of Universal Health Coverage. UHC is part of the Big Four Agenda.
While there is much work to do, we are fortunate that Kenya has a promising healthcare system, especially in comparison to other African countries. We and many of our neighbours across Western, Central and Southern Africa are no strangers to pandemics. However, what sets Kenya apart is our strength, resolve and ability to prioritise health interventions at all levels.
And by creating a programme designed to combat coronavirus while at the same time hiring young people who would otherwise suffer from joblessness in a stuttering economy, the government is making lemonade out of lemons. Looking at the positive side of a situation that can otherwise appear so dire is not always simple. However, it is important. As religious people, many of us have been taught our entire lives that faith is stronger than any negative force.
And it is always more effective to be active in that positive faith. Rather than expecting good things to come our way, we have to go out and look for them with the expectation that they exist and can be found.
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Some high profile leaders in much wealthier countries appear helpless, and have resorted to throwing their arms up in exasperation and playing the blame game. Pointing fingers is a waste of time when every moment is precious, when every day calls for decisive action and every week is more daunting than the next.
-The writer is a legal scholar