The healthcare system in Kenya has been a cry for help for a long time now. There have been the doctors strike, the nurses strike, both doctors and nurses strike and yet the situation continues to remain dire. One scandal after the other; of lost drugs, misplaced funds, disagreement between the doctors union and the government, failure by different county governments to pay their staff and supply drugs on time, just to mention a few.
Activist Boniface Mwangi once said that, “in Kenya you are one sickness away from poverty” and truer words have never been spoken. As it is, Kenya, like many countries worldwide, is being faced by the Covid-19 pandemic and we continue to prove daily that it is not only our healthcare, but the entire country in general; we are not ready! Some people have likened the current on goings to the end times; first came the locusts, then the virus and now the floods continue to wreak havoc to many Kenyans.
Over 200 people have lost their lives with another 800,000 being displaced. And yet, there is more. Amidst a pandemic that requires us to wash our hands with soap and running water for at least twenty seconds, the taps in most Nairobi households are running dry as Nairobi Water and Sewerage warned of water shortages in Nairobi for an unannounced time. The dam that supplies most households in Nairobi burst its walls following the heavy rains. The irony. That while we are floods are displacing others, we can barely supply consistent water to our citizens at a time when a virus is threatening to ravage us.
Meanwhile, our trusted leaders continue to shame us, publicly so. There have been leaders supplying sanitizers with their photos plastered all over them reminding us who is in control. Elsewhere, some GOK sanitizers branded “not for sale” continue to be sold to the mwananchi at exorbitant prices. Also noteworthy, is the fact that most of the policies of extended a full lockdown cannot work in Kenya. Most of the citizens live from hand to mouth and enforcing a full lockdown would be catastrophic.
But maybe Kenyans have not quite grasped the extent of this virus. If Italy, a developed country with access to proper health care could be crumbled, what of a nation that can barely supply consistent clean water to the citizens? Kenyans have been notoriously sneaking out to have drinking sprees with their friends or gather at Ngong Hills through the night in numbers. There have been reported cases of bars that allow people in only to close doors as though nothing is happening inside. And we all know how the bars can get crowded. Most recently, the government announced that restaurants will be allowed to open as long as the staff got tested, wore masks and could only serve a certain number of people at the same time. This begs the question, after testing, is one immune to the virus? How do we ensure minimal interaction within these restaurants and how will we ensure that the said regulations are being followed to the letter?
In a country where corruption is so high, this is doubtful. The police continue to harass Kenyans while at the same time asking for bribes; selfish landlords have been reported to kick out tenants who cannot afford to pay rent as they are out of work; the cases of domestic violence have risen significantly with some leading to deaths; there has been a case of a mother who was boiling stones for her children to try and seem to be cooking as hunger continued to ravage and worse, the Kenyan government continues to report new cases daily with poor accountability of how funds, set aside for curbing Covid-19 being misused. But we hold on to hope and in the words of Nanjala Nyabola; writer and advocate, “I don’t believe in the Kenyan government, but I believe in Kenyans.” The people, us. It is up to each and every one of us to hold the government accountable, but most importantly, to be our brothers’ keepers.