The coronavirus has arrived in Kenya and it has the Country in its grip. There are various factors which make Kenya particularly vulnerable to the virus.
As of July 12th, 2020, 41 of the 47 counties have reported at least one case of the coronavirus. The highest number of infections is in the capital, Nairobi. Overall, 207,987 people have been tested, of which 9726 were positive. According to official information, 184 people have died and 2832 recovered. The health care system’s low bed-capacity is a big challenge: treating just a few hundred intensive care patients would be difficult.
The government took various measures to protect the population. They imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. and people are being asked to work from home if possible. International air traffic has been suspended, and only Kenyan citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter the country. In addition, everyone must wear a mask in public.
On July 6th, president Uhuru Kenyatta began the phased reopening of the country by allowing passenger transport between different countries under strict conditions. Travelers are asked to use sanitizer, wear a mask and to check their temperature before boarding any vehicles.
Not only are the medical consequences devastating, but the coronavirus is also a big threat to the Kenyan economy, which depends mainly on the export of coffee, tea, and flowers, and tourism. The latter has suffered immensely under the worldwide travel restrictions. The export of goods depends on international demand and a functioning transport infrastructure. Both factors have been negatively affected by the coronavirus, which has hurt the country’s economy. Decreased international demand means decreased production. Therefore, a lot of companies have had to lay off their employees. And many of those who have lost their jobs have to get by without unemployment benefits, which is now harder than ever.
The crisis affects all industries differently. For example, the food industry has remained active, whereas restaurants and hotels have had to close. Livestock markets have been shut down, and in certain regions of Kenya, livestock is a form of payment: When people don’t have cash, they use goats or cows. Consequently, many people are unable to cover their financial needs.
The poorest segment of the population is affected the most. The capital’s slums cover about 10% of the city’s living space while being home to more than 60% of its population – that makes social distancing in slums almost impossible. Most of Nairobi’s inhabitants work under terrible conditions, without an actual contract or social security benefits or health insurance. This makes emergency medical care impossible for many people. Fleeing to the countryside in most cases isn’t an option either, because the health care and medical supply is often worse in rural areas. And to make matters worse, the harvest is suffering under climate change.
The pandemic doesn’t only threaten lives, it also causes a deeper separation of Kenyan society. Members of the Kenyan elite and international expats demanded a strict lockdown. This measure had severe consequences, especially for workers in the informal sector. For many people a lockdown can be life-threatening because they depend on their daily income to pay for food and rent. They don’t have the luxury or financial means to prepare for or survive a long lockdown like the elite.
Since the controversial elections in 2017, the populations’ faith in the government has decreased significantly. The risk of the coronavirus becoming a political crisis is therefore very high. However, Kenya has one big advantage: it’s a democracy, so it would be possible to set up something like income compensation or lower the value-added tax. But, like many other African countries, Kenya is heavily in debt, which limits its financial freedom of action. The entire African continent needs more than 100 billion US-Dollars to really handle this crisis. If creditors would release them from the obligation of paying the interest rates on their debt, half of that amount would be covered. The country, now more than ever, depends on an international cooperation and solidarity.
After the first person tested positive for the coronavirus on March 13th, the Kenyan government closed all schools, colleges and universities. Many children usually get their only warm meal of the day at school. Now, because of the coronavirus, they don’t have access to a nutritious meal and face hunger and malnutrition. The effects of hunger impair the immune system and make them more vulnerable to diseases like Covid-19. That’s why they rely on organizations like Thriving Green e.V. to support them with valuable nutrients. With your donation to Thriving Green e.V. you can support our fight against hunger and malnutrition.
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