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Isiolo challenged to create enabling environment in dealing with emergencies

BUSINESS
By Fredrick Obura | March 2nd 2021

ISIOLO, KENYA: Isiolo County has been challenged to set up an enabling environment for ease in dealing with emergencies in the region.

The North Eastern County faces a rising degree of vulnerability to disaster risks notably droughts, floods, human and livestock epidemics.

Other disasters like fire outbreaks and resource-based, conflict-induced displacements disrupt the capacities of the local population to cope or withstand the hazards using their resources. 

A study conducted by USAID lauds the county for efforts in allocating resources to Corona Virus and mobilizing development partners and the private sector to contribute to the disease response.

It noted that the County also prepared a response plan budget whose objective was to mobilise more resources for the fight against COVID-19.

“While these efforts have yielded positive results, they were not enough. Similarly, certain aspects of the COVID-19 intervention, such as the coordination, communication, monitoring, and learning activities, including facilitation of the various committee work, did not receive the required resourcing,” notes the report.

“To facilitate this, the County should activate the Disaster Risk Fund as a special purpose account where the government (both national and County) and other partners (both non-profit and private sector) can contribute to. This will also aid in creating a clear accountability framework to avoid negative publicity and politicization of the efforts,” it recommends.  

“Putting in place a clear accountability framework through the Disaster Fund where funds received, how it was spent and reported as well as pulling in one direction through political goodwill, will facilitate seamless response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the county.”

Kenya reported its first COVID-19 case on March 13, 2020, putting the country on high alert. On March 15, 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a raft of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, leading to an April 6, 2020 directive on cessation of movement in and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area for a containment period of 21 days. Other counties affected by the cessation are Mombasa, Kilifi, and Kwale at the Coast.

Following these directives and nationwide measures, County Governments carried out their preparedness and response measures.

Isiolo County

The first COVID-19 case in Isiolo was reported on May 8, 2020, in Garba Tulla town, two months after Kenya announced its first case.

As of 2nd March 2021, the County had 268 tested positive, 1142 contacts were traced and 10 being the number of COVID- 19 related deaths.

Even before this case was reported and following national COVID-19 directives and guidelines issued by the President, the County Government of Isiolo put in place preparedness measures to curb the spread and effects of the virus. 

On March 16, 2020, the County constituted a multi-agency and multi-stakeholder COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee to coordinate the COVID-19 preparedness and response in the County.

The 25-member committee comprises the County Government, the National Government, the Civil Society, the Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO), the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Religious Leaders, among others. Four of these members are female.

The County’s response entailed a few inter-related initiatives, which included case management, awareness raising, preventive services, and support to vulnerable populations. To enhance effective collaboration, learning, and adaptive management, the County established a COVID-19 Disease Surveillance Team (DST), which was headed by an epidemiologist and staffed with public health experts at the County and Sub-county levels.

The DST spearhead rapid response, gives alert when a case is found, coordinated data collection, collation, analysis, and transmission to relevant institutions at national and county levels.

The County Government and development partners supported widespread awareness-raising on dangers of COVID-19, how it is spread, and prevention measures such as social distancing, handwashing, and wearing facemasks through roadshows, use of public address system, produced messages, development, and distribution of awareness-raising posters across the County.

After each of its meetings, the Emergency Committee held a press conference in which both local and national media stations participated. Additionally, the committee had a dedicated information officer from the Governor’s office who attended all meetings and disseminated the deliberations to the co-chairs of the committee – the Governor and County Commissioner, the CEC, and the Chief Officer of Health all participated in local FM radio talk shows. Similarly, several development partners sponsored radio and roadshow awareness-raising programs.

Key lessons from the interventions include the need to engage everyone especially the political leaders. The report notes that this will help in creating goodwill, reducing negative publicity, and politicization of emergency interventions.

“The COVID-19 Committee noted that several political leaders politicized the COVID-19 response questioning the allocation and utilization of resources establishment and procurement of key equipment such as ICU facilities. There were also numerous queries from oversight bodies such as the Senate Health Committee, which created mixed messaging from politicians and watered-down efforts by the COVID-19,” notes the report

“It is possible to achieve more if interventions are structured through a multi-agency, multi-stakeholder coordination committee that can achieve more success than individual departments or sectors. This approach facilitated the pooling of resources, the building of partnerships, and benefited from the expertise and experience of the different actors and stakeholders.”

Other recommendations include harmonisation of coordination structures within the County, joint planning, implementation, between the County, and its partners, and clear modalities of engagement between the County and relevant involved stakeholders

Adequate resource allocation to various covid-19 structures at all levels up to village level, full implementation of Disaster Risk Management Policies, and centralized information centre are also key aspects the report recommends.

The USAID study is part of a broad engagement on the Use of Feedback Loops to Enhance Collaborative Learning and Improve COVID-19 Response Coordination & Adaptation in Isiolo County.

The assessment used key informant interviews and focus group discussions with key respondents, which included members of the multi-agency, multi-stakeholder COVID-19 Emergency response committees at the County, Sub-county levels, the Disease Surveillance Team, and staff of the County Department of health. A session with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) involved in COVID-19 response in Isiolo corroborated the findings.

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