Pandemic has brought out the best in Kenyans
By Demas Kiprono | April 17th 2020
As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, the threat of the disease is slowly sinking into the Kenyan psyche. We continue to hope that somehow, we will be spared the suffering and fatalities seen in China, Iran, Italy, Spain, UK, and the USA.
The government swiftly put in place measures to prevent a full outbreak by banning public gatherings, putting out information on how Kenyans can protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus, imposing a nationwide curfew and directing every person to wear a face mask.
Regarding the front-line war on Covid-19, the State has moved to expand Kenya’s medical human resource, their Personal Protective Gears (PPE), bed and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity, ventilators and testing capability.
This crisis is unique because it has forced countries to look within for solutions, rather than relying on outside help. The reality is that developed nations and traditional donors are preoccupied with mitigating the coronavirus crisis in their own backyards. The silver lining is that different organisations, institutions of higher learning, companies and citizens are lending a hand in the fight against Covid-19.
One stellar example is how Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) responded to the much-needed testing by innovating a new way to use COBAS machines, previously used for HIV, TB and Avian flu testing, to test Covid-19, potentially increasing our testing capability to 35,000 samples per day.
Kenyatta University unveiled a prototype ventilator developed by 16 students drawn from schools of biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, pharmacy, medicine and nursing.
If approved by the Ministry of Health, they say they can make 50 machines per week, thereby placating the current shortage that has been exacerbated by medical equipment 'global race'.
Companies such as Rift Valley Textiles and Kitui County Textile Centre have begun manufacturing face masks and PPEs for medical personnel, while Technical University of Mombasa is manufacturing automatic sprayers that are being used to sanitise commuters in public areas such as the Mombasa Likoni Ferry.
Many other food, beverage and industrial manufactures have increased or diverted their output in order to manufacture hand sanitisers and disinfectants. These innovations and initiatives show us that we are indeed capable of manufacturing our own things even to the point of exporting.
Historically, it is crises that make or break people. More poignantly, great leaders and countries are made during crises. Having seen our potential, the government should support, invest in, and create incentives for domestic innovation and manufacturing.
The crisis caused by World War Two propelled the USA from a large country struggling from the after effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s to a superpower by 1945 because it applied itself to manufacturing the weapons and ammunition needed to defeat the Nazis.
On the humanitarian front, Kenyans are coming together to support the less fortunate and vulnerable in society. For instance, Cherotich Seii of Active Citizen has been able to raise Sh1,049,643 via twitter and used it to support 465 vulnerable families between March 24 and April 15.
Her initiative is so far working because people want to help, but do not know how to channel their contributions and be assured it will make a difference.
Since Kenya announced her first confirmed case of Covid-19, we have all been united to ensure that we overcome coronavirus. The political class refrained from 2022 succession and party politics. This created an atmosphere that allowed Kenyans to focus in their endeavour to protect lives.
However, the past week has seen the political class rehash its 2022 political plans, supremacy battles and power games. In my opinion, the return to politics during this time is dangerous, divisive, insensitive, in bad taste and threatens to divert the focus of government and parliament from the existential threat of Covid-19.
In the words of John F Kennedy, "In a time of domestic crisis, men of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics."
Mr Kiprono is a Constitutional and Human Rights [email protected]
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