An unwelcome guest arrived in Kenya on March 5th aboard an international flight. Kenyans had only just started to hear about him in the diaspora and his arrival was not taken seriously. After all, it was just one visitor! He could easily be dealt with. But soon he multiplied into 4 and the sad reality is beginning to sink as Kenya hits 31 cases and records the first death.

 

Government measures to prevent more infections

The Government has worked in overdrive to prevent the virus from spreading further and has kept the citizens informed through daily briefings by none other than the President, H.E Uhuru Kenyatta or the Health Cabinet Secretary (CS), Hon. Mutahi Kagwe.

All the publicized interventions are geared towards ‘Flattening the curve of infections’ i.e prevent large groups of population getting infected at the same time to prevent a strain on the health system.

The Government has also announced economic stimulus measures to cushion the population against the downside of the economy.

 

Effects on the Population

The communal, family and spiritual fabric of Kenyans has been severely tested since the arrival of the virus with crowding being restricted, putting the population in a do or die situation as staying home for most means no income/food while the down side of staying at home is a good supply of food.

There are no social events (even worship ones!) to attend on weekends and most people have no idea what to do to keep busy. As the President has put it, social distancing, self-isolation and self-quarantine which were foreign to Kenyans a month ago, are now the new norms of life.  Travelling anywhere is expensive besides being a real challenge without a private vehicle which most Kenyans don’t own.

The much respected handshake has now been replaced by foot bumps or the Namaste (hindu greeting of pressing palms together, fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest and bowing slightly). Can’t judge the warmth of the greeting as there is no touching!

 

The foot bump and Namaste greetings. (photos courtesy of Al Jazeera and Nation Media Group)

The foot bump and Namaste greetings. (photos courtesy of Al Jazeera and Nation Media Group)

The foot bump and Namaste greetings. (photos courtesy of Al Jazeera and Nation Media Group)

 

Children, even college ones are all home and budgets for food are soaring exponentially.

Annual General Meetings (AGMs) have been cancelled thus dividends won’t be coming when they normally do.

Agriculture and big 4 agenda are under severe threat. Food insecurity may result from less supplies and increased prices. The losses in the Floriculture sector which thrives on export are monumental.

The economy is in despair with businesses closed down, others with no stock, jobs lost and money in short supply.

Demographers are at work digging out the histories of plagues/disease outbreaks and wondering whether the Malthusian theory on control of population is at work. Morbidity and mortality have taken center stage over fertility and maternal and child health!

 

What can we do to while away the home time?

This is the good side of the coin.

  • Parental presence – let’s get to bond with our children and become better parents.
  • Teachers- enjoy some time with your families, you rarely do.
  • Extended family and close friends – rekindle the love with calls and chats (Not visits).
  • Online classes – this is the time to acquire that long dreamt of skill and certificate
  • Reading – we are not a reading nation but surely we read some novels when we were younger. If not Dock Diaries, Mills and Boon, John Grisham, surely Ngugi waThiong’o/Chinua Achebe or at least a newspaper?
  • House work – you can save on the casual labor and keep in shape while at it
  • Work outs and walking around your home may keep non communicable diseases (NCDS) or lifestyle diseases at bay

 

What Not to Do!

Panic – you jeopardize your mental health and counsellors are travel restricted!

Stockpiling food supply in the house – the sight of the stocks is depressing and you create undue shortages.

Price Gouging (inflated prices in reaction to demand)- Supermarkets/Shopkeepers please!

Go Home– fleeing houses(Cities/towns) to homes (rural areas a.k.a ushago) to ‘stay safe’

Best practices to keep from the Corona Virus Experience

Health systems- improve the preparedness, testing equipment, skills and training, motivation, adequate staff. Protect health workers against hazards at work

Use of Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to monitor quarantined people.

Airports- screening and testing in times of international health challenges.

Self-quarantine/isolate occasionally to break from the hustle and bustle of life and promote mental and physical health

National prayers – Prayer changes things! – learn from the country of Fiji

Namaste greeting – hard lesson to learn but great benefits in terms of hygiene

Frequent handwashing hygiene and sanitizing – practice how to make soap and sanitizers at home to beat the cost

Public health- Fumigations of high risk major public places and informal settlements. Regular public health messages

Lower taxation – inflation ni kali

Home School – online classes a great innovation to achieve 100% transition without the strains on school facilities

Online shopping – as long as the money lasts! Can we get fuliza shopping too?

Online counselling services- its high time.

Home deliveries by supermarkets – great for shoppers on saving fare/petrol and time.

Cashless transactions/M-Pesa transactions and surely the lower charges!

No touching (passengers especially) – matatu touts please sustain this.

e-fare system – Matatu owners this is a Godsend for you!

Virtual meetings- teleconferences can reduce meeting budgets, even AGMs

Work from home/Avoid unnecessary travel- traffic jams would be a thing of the past! But then County Governments would suffer reduced parking revenue.

Community Social Responsibility (CSR)- food, sanitary and soap donations especially to Informal settlements (slums), Internally displaced persons(IDPs) and squatters

Increased social protection for the elderly and vulnerable members of the community.

 

What next for Kenyans?

We must stop the deny, distract and downplay attitude we have so far exhibited. Let us bring to the fore, our resilience, optimism and innovation.

 

We pray for Mr. Covid-19 to be contained from his reckless travel soonest so that we start living again! But before then, let’s be wary of him,

He is deadly. We must keep him at bay at all costs!

 #StayhomeStaysafe #flattenthecurve

 

Please also find more information from the following:

Ministry of Health: General information about Covid-19 Virus

 President Kenyatta Outlines Measures to Contain Spread of Coronavirus