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What we need to do to ensure Kenyans don’t die of hunger during the pandemic

LETTERS
By Agnetta Okwemba | September 27th 2021

A Consignment of food supply destined to Northern Kenya region on September 22, 2021. The food supply will cushion the Semi-Arid Counties worst hit by drought and the negative effects of Covid-19. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Thousands of Kenyans are yet to recover from the catastrophic effect of Covid-19. The pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human lives worldwide besides presenting an unprecedented challenge to public health, the food system and employment. 

 The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic has devastated thousands with many others at risk of falling into extreme poverty.

Meanwhile, hundreds of businesses face an existential threat. Imagine - nearly half of the world’s 3.3billion global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods.

Informal economy workers are vulnerable because the majority lack social protection and access to productive assets.

Without the means to earn an income during the lockdown, many are unable to feed themselves and their families, for most, no income means no food or at best less food and less nutritious food.

The pandemic has been affecting the entire food system and has laid bare its fragility. Border closure trade restrictions and confinement measures have been preventing farmers from accessing markets, including for buying inputs and selling their produce and agricultural workers from harvesting crops thus disrupting domestic and international food supply chains and reducing access to healthy safe and diverse diets.

The pandemic has decimated jobs and placed millions of livelihoods at risk. Since many breadwinners have lost their jobs, many families have been left suffering from food shortages, lack of medicine among other important things.

Many Kenyans have taken up agricultural works waged and became self-employed just to scrape through. Still, it’s a challenge especially for those who are getting into farming just to scrap through— and find something to feed their families.

Needless to say that many have ended up working under very unsafe conditions brought about by the challenges of the pandemic— which exposes them and their families to additional risks.

Some of those who have faced a loss in income have resorted to negative coping strategies such as distress sales of assets predatory loans or child labour.

Guaranteeing the safety and health of all agricultural food workers from primary producers to those involved in food processing transport and retail including street food vendors and better income and protection will be critical if we are to save lives, protect public health, and ensure food security.

It is important that workers adhere to workplace safety and health practices. Meanwhile, the government must ensure access to decent work and the protection of labour rights in all industries.

Also, responding swiftly to the pandemic while ensuring that humanitarian and recovery assistance reaches those most in need is critical. We must rethink the future of our environment and tackle climate change and environmental degradation with ambition and urgency.

Only then can we protect the health livelihoods food security and nutrition of all people and ensure that our new normal is a better one. All ways should be put in place to ensure normal life is brought about.

Miss Okwemba is a Public Relations student at Maasai Mara University

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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