Which innocuous route is for Kenya? Right, Left or living us behind? Author Mugambi Paul

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The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.

 Mugambi Paul is a public policy,  diversity,  inclusion and sustainability expert.

Australian Chief Minister Award winner

“excellence of making inclusion happen”

 

Since the first case of Covid-2019 in 13th March Kenya has recorded the highest number of recorded cases of Covid-19 in July 2020 among its counterparts in East Africa.

I observe, the numbers will continue to rise.

This is mainly increased due to intra-county movement of people, lack of disability inclusive measures,

poor hygiene and lack of adherence to WHO and government measures.

 

At present, the impact and spread of infections are feared to be exacerbated by the huge number of people living in poverty, lack of social amenities like water supply casing point my own home area where we buy this basic commodity, overcrowding in the slum settlements and weak

health infrastructure.

This has led to poor and access or clean water, sanitation and hygiene to the population.

Moreover, the existence of economic and social inequalities still bite.

What has government done:

dusk-to-dawn curfews.

Establishment of a national response team,

 Limiting access to public places e.g. entertainment joints, schools,

Media campaigns on basic hygiene and social distancing

Introduction of short-term measure on social protection to the vulnerable groups. For instance, Kazi kwa mitaa initiative for six and half month’s cash transfer for 3 months

 

Nevertheless, all these measures are not inclusive.

This is a clear indicator of Persons with disabilities have been left behind.

On the other hand, these precautionary actions continue to have negative economic impacts on businesses and workers. The country has witnessed job cuts across various sectors, and incomes of businesses and available working hours for staff have fallen significantly. As [ILO 2020, HI 2020 UN 2020] 2020 persons with disabilities are worst hit by this pandemic.

Just like other countries in the world the economic consequences of the pandemic are likely to have a far greater impact on the long-term health, wellbeing and poverty levels of the Kenyan population as a whole than the predicted fatalities caused directly by the disease. Sectors worst hit by the virus include the labor force, housing, transport, health, trade and tourism. The supply and demand for goods and services in these sectors have been significantly hampered. Furthermore, the restriction of movement in and out the country has dwindled the revenues from the tourism and aviation sectors, while delays at borders due to testing of truck drivers have resulted in losses of profits to business owners.

additionally, Kenya is facing a three-layered crisis – the coronavirus pandemic, locust infestation and floods. Since the end of December 2019, the country has been facing its worst locust infestation in 70 years,

Unfortunately, Kenya is food insecure.

It imports food from its neighboring countries.

This has directed to Changes in food-purchasing habits by many Kenyans.

. This is particularly the case for households living below the poverty line, who have resorted to purchasing only essential foodstuffs during the pandemic.

A survey conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in May 2020 indicates that the labor participation rate in the country has fallen significantly as a result of the pandemic.

This is evidenced by Due to curfews and limited movement of people, many roles have become redundant, resulting in job losses or unpaid leave. People living in poverty are finding it difficult to meet their daily expenses and pay bills, including rent, as a result of job losses, pay cuts or unpaid leave. Public transport measures introduced by government of Kenya have rendered persons with disabilities not to move

This is due to reduction of number of passengers in a vehicle and the increase charged by operators

Kenyans, particularly those relying on casual work, persons with disabilities find it difficult to pay rent. Workers who already live in poverty and cannot afford to have precautionary savings consequently face a high risk of falling into poverty and might experience even greater challenges in regaining their livelihoods after the pandemic.

The pandemic has highlighted, more than ever, that neglecting certain sectors make people living in poverty more vulnerable. These are health, social protection, housing and sanitation and hygiene. There needs to be more scrutiny of budget plans, their execution, and performance of these sectors, all of which should support those living in poverty.

Re-opening the economy whilst also taking care of health concerns has been a balancing act for governments across the world, including Kenya. The country has a large population living below or just above the poverty line. It is this category of the population that are most affected by the impact of the pandemic. Reduced earnings from sluggish economic activities and job losses as a result of confinement measures by the government have to be balanced against consideration of the daily needs of those living in poverty, as well as now-looming food insecurity across the country.

Furthermore, the Covid-2019 has seen rise of mental health issues and increase of suicide case in the country.

Many cases have been reported and seems the health and community structures aren’t ready enough to support or accommodate.

While significant advances have been made in Kenya over the past 5 years to address the stigma associated with high prevalence mental disorders

such as depression and anxiety, people living with complex mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder still report experiencing high levels

of stigma and discrimination.

What can policy makers and stakeholders endorse

  • Revision of budgetary allocations to more critical sectors such as health and social protection during the pandemic. Funds re-allocated to these sectors will support the already burdened health infrastructure in the country and increase the resources available for cash transfers to people living in poverty like persons with disabilities, slum dwellers a homeless, orphans elderly, and vulnerable populations.
  • Ensure representation of persons with disabilities in the national and county response teams.
  • Provide mental health community initiatives support systems
  • Develop disability specific protocols in order to ensure specific measures are in place.
  • Request national debt abolishment from the Chinese government and other lending institutions to cushion people living in poverty against the tax regimes currently being implemented by the government
  • Expansion of internet connectivity and lower costs for users.The private sector needs to priorities investment in connectivity because of the ‘new normal’ of working and learning from home.
  • Cheaper internet bundles are needed to support government measures such as working from home and online learning for students.
  • Provide and connect water and power supply to the unreached places
  • Provision of wage subsidies,particularly to those employers hiring casual laborer’s and daily income earners to support sustainability of employment.

Sustaining local industries (micro, small and medium businesses) that provide jobs to people living in poverty should be prioritized in the short and medium term. This could be through access to cheap loans, waiver of license fees water and power taxes. The government should priorities tender awards to local industries that are able to produce or provide input for the production of protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizers, and a bailout fund should be launched to keep these industries afloat.

All in all, Throughout Africa, the pandemic is continuing to have an impact and Kenya, like most African countries, faces serious resource constraints, fragile health systems and lack of a clear inclusive strategy to fight the virus. To ensure socioeconomic recovery within a reasonable period, the government should put in place inclusive plans and resources that do not continue to weigh disproportionally on people living in poverty.

The pandemic has highlighted, more than ever, that neglecting certain sectors make people living in poverty of particular persons with disabilities more vulnerable. These are health, social protection, housing and sanitation and hygiene. There needs to be more scrutiny of budget plans, their execution, and performance of these sectors, all of which should support those living in poverty.