100 days of coronavirus: We have an obligation to the right thing to save lives
| June 20th 2020
Today marks 100 days since the reality of the novel coronavirus hit Kenyans. A hundred days ago, the first case was announced in Nairobi, and since then, another 4,373 people have tested positive for the disease.
Although 1,550 of these have recovered, the country has been taken through a crash course on dealing with a pandemic, which has claimed 119 lives. There are hard lessons learnt and hard decisions to be made. And there are other very critical decisions that have taken too long to be made by policy makers.
The economy has been hard hit. Our healthcare system has been brought to its knees and the corruption within it exposed. The little social support system for the old and vulnerable has come under great scrutiny, and the house of cards that is Kenya being the biggest economy in the region threatened by massive job losses and business closures.
But even in the hardest of times, there are a few things that have gone right. Kenyans, in the initial days of the pandemic, proved to be an adoptive lot, taking up preventive measures with the full understanding of the devastating threat posed by the virus. Amid empty government promises of providing citizens with cheap face masks that were to retail for as little as Sh5, citizens pulled together and sewed their own protective cloth masks.
Instead of waiting for the government to provide clean water to wash hands in public spaces, business owners and Kenyans of goodwill set up water basins outside their business premises.
Bus operators put up handwashing points at bus stages, proving once again that solutions to whatever problems we face as a country truly lie within us and that when common good comes together, we can do amazing things.
Like many other things though, we have had the ugly happen. We have seen an abdication of duty by those we trust the most. The first being the brutalisation of Kenyans on the first day of the dusk-to-dawn curfew when hundreds were beaten and abused by men and women in uniform.
Our healthcare workers have gone to the frontlines every day inadequately protected, hanging on to nothing but the hope that they will not go home infected and pass on the disease to their loved ones. Every day, they report to work hoping that the promised PPEs from the government will finally make their way to the clinics and hospitals they serve.
Policemen and women, a key component of essential service providers, have also been forced to dig into their pockets to buy face masks and latex gloves essential in their everyday business.
As they patrol our streets to maintain law and order, little is being done to make their work easier during these times.
A hundred days later, we are still struggling with accessing enough reagents to meet the testing numbers demanded by science for us to truly know our infection rates. Deaths are going unreported in the counties. In these just over three months, we have come to truly understand just how far our healthcare system has fallen from acceptable standards.
That entire counties supporting millions of lives can have less than 10 ICU beds, and others with similar numbers can have none of these beds more than half a century after independence, while those who make annual budgets dedicate billions to mundane things such as tea and mandazi, is an insult to Kenyans.
As we embark on the next 100 days that will see Kenyans adopt to living with Covid-19 as an ever present but manageable threat, we should demand better accountability. Accountability for the billions of shillings donated to government to mitigate the effects of the virus. Accountability for better management of our healthcare systems. Accountability for better research facilities across the nation. Accountability for culpability of all those who loot public funds that could have been used to make lives better.
We demand that taxpayers’ money helps us get better prepared for the next pandemic. Because after Covid-19, another one will follow. And the world might just get tired of donating essential equipment to the biggest economy in East Africa.
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