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Covid-19 has exposed Kenya's Achilles' heels

By Ben Mokamba | April 24th 2020

It is uncanny how the convergence of events can validate one’s reality so fully. The recent dealings with Covid-19 seem to have validated the government’s focus on the Big Four Agenda.
Let me explain. Recently, we discovered how we need to bolster our healthcare system so that it can provide services to our population. We have been faced with the realisation that we need more healthcare workers, that we need more primary health care facilities, and more critically, that we need to have a stronger response system in times of healthcare emergencies. 
The Universal Healthcare Pillar under the Big Four Agenda is geared towards strengthening service delivery in the health sector so that all Kenyans have access to quality healthcare at an affordable price. 
Isn’t it uncanny that this emergency highlights the importance of this pillar?
With the global supply chain strained with the need to supply medical equipment, personal protective equipment and even masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we have realised the importance of having a minimum amount of internal manufacturing capacity. 
Again, the manufacturing pillar is so critical to creating new growth and putting people back to work. In addition, it has become extremely clear that there is a need to improve our performance in manufacturing so that we can respond adequately in times like these that require reliance on internal production systems. 
It is quite apt then that the Big Four Agenda was seeking to strengthen manufacturing capacity.
Food security is perhaps the easiest to grasp as one of our critical areas of need as a nation.  Realising that many people, especially in the urban centers, rely on purchases to feed themselves, it is no wonder that a total lockdown scenario would be devastating for many. 
Simply put, our urban centres rely heavily on trade in order to put food in the mouths of those whose lives are dependent on daily wages. 
In addition, the production of food is in areas outside of our urban centres and it is important to keep trade lines open in order to keep our cities fed.
If farmers outside of cities are disincentivised through a collapse of markets in the city centres, for sure, our food security will be in great jeopardy. And now, of course, the importance of the food supply and production network in Kenya has been brought to the fore of our consciousness as we debate how best to stave off the spread of Covid-19. 
However, it is now dawning to many that long before this disease, this administration was contemplating ways of helping us to secure food and nutrition for our population.
Lastly, the issue of affordable housing is also related to Covid-19. The fact that we have nearly 60 per cent of our urban population living in inhuman conditions, in great densities, in informal settlements and slums, has become an issue we need to confront. 
The affordable housing programme sought to provide decent and adequate housing - with a certain minimum standard for access to acceptable sanitation services.
It has become apparent in these times of the pandemic that there is a direct relationship between health outcomes and the state of human settlements and the standard of living.  This is not something new in public policy and it is a fact that has been acknowledged across all levels of Government. 
The Affordable Housing Programme (AHP) as part of its main interventions sought to create well planned cities with access to services that promote sustainable livelihoods.
From ensuring that people have housing units with water reticulation, decent bathrooms, access to energy, organised refuse collection, and other services, AHP is a programme that sought to transform the way in which ordinary Kenyans experience daily living conditions. 
 It is possible to see how access to affordable housing, another of the pillars in the Big Four Agenda, is critical for responsiveness to the realities posed by the Covid-19.
For us to create lasting disaster management, emergency response, improved public health indicators, and improved service delivery in urban areas, we must address how our human settlements are built, structured, and financed. 
This is the promise of affordable housing and we need to think on how best to keep this in our ambitions as a country.
Mr Mokamba is a communication consultant

Covid 19 Time Series


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