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Covid-19 crisis: Lenku reveals govt’s strategy of distributing relief food

Governor Joseph ole Lenku (pictured) speaking during a live Skype interview by Citizen TV, said his administration has already compiled and submitted a list of vulnerable residents to the Council of Governors, which is the contact point with the Interior’s Department of Special Programmes, that will be provided with relief food. Here are the excerpts.

Citizen TV: How prepared is Kajiado County during this war of Covid-19 pandemic?

Governor Lenku: Kajiado County, like the rest of the country, is going out of its way to contain [the spread of] the coronavirus pandemic, and also making sure that the community is sensitized… As Kajiado County we had the first index case, and as a result we had to create an intergovernmental agency that brings together, the county and national government agencies to monitor, control and prevent the spread of the virus.

On a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest, how confident are you that your county is ready to handle covid-19?

For all that the county is supposed to do, like setting of isolation and quarantine centers, and contact tracing, I will say that we are at a very high level.

How many isolation centers do you have?

We have five isolation centers in all our key towns, in each sub county

How many people can each isolation center hold?

Each an isolation center has an average of 10 beds, meaning we have a total capacity of 60 beds in the county

Do you have enough personal protective equipment (PPEs)

Yes, we have provided all our health staffs, those who are in contact, or are supposed to be in contact with who are in isolation centers and in our hospitals, we have provided sufficient PPEs

What is the maximum capacity that each isolation unit can hold?

Twelve… We also have 10 bed Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in the five key hospitals, each equipped with ventilators, and so the ICUs beds that I equipped with ventilators, are now in place in Kajiado… and of course the sensitization of hand washing, keeping social distance are all in place in our market places, and our communities are fully sensitized.

How many medics do you have, and would your medics be getting special allowances during this time?

Already 542 of our frontline staff have been trained on this Covid-19, and yes, about better remuneration for our health staff, this is a conversation that has taken place much earlier but we were unable to implement because of the directive from the President (Uhuru Kenyatta), but now with the leeway, that conversation has begun again, so that we see how we can really support our health staff. Definitely, we are very grateful of the various health teams, working in all our hospitals, we know the sacrifice they are making to attend to the people, and so, they really deserve better remuneration, better compensation, and it goes without saying that their safety also comes first.

Have you mapped out how many vulnerable people are in Kajiado County?

Kajiado by virtue of its proximity to Nairobi (capital city), we time and again, from the Ministry of Health (MoH), get instruction on contact tracing. So far we are following 63 people who were supposed to have come into contact, but fortunately for those whom they came into contact with were tested and were found negative. Remember also, the recent directives/development from Nairobi of people who came from Namanga, or into the country, some were said to have had contact with the Kajiado residents, however a number of those who were taken for testing, have actually come out negative. That automatically means that their contact tracing does not now pose any threat.

How many people in your county need food as we speak now?

Ooh! It’s a very big problem in Kajiado, because, remember in Kajiado, as I said earlier, by virtue of its proximity to Nairobi, we have actually three slums; two in Ngong, (Gichagi and Mathare) and Kware in Ongata Rongai, and the numbers have already been taken in… of course the larger rural Kajiado also have very poor, old and vulnerable community, that list has already been compiled and submitted to the Council of Governors, which is the contact point with the Department of Special Programmes in the Ministry of Interior to provide relief food, so the list has already been submitted.

How much funding do you have [to address the pandemic emergencies]?

Recently, through our County Assembly, we managed to allocate Ksh135 million to Covid-19 emergency.

You deal with very unique group of people, Maasai people by nature, by their culture they are pastoralist — they move up and down — during a pandemic such as Covid-19, for the pastoral community, what unique ideas or strategies do your government have to combat the spread of the virus?

I think Covid-19 will not only be about Maasai, but it is about Kenyans [and the entire global community]… everybody is supposed to keep a social distance; everybody is supposed to wash hands as directed by government, because this is a scientific problem that has scientific guidelines to be followed.

But Maasai are pastoralist, and at the end of the day because of the moving they have to do, what unique ways as Kajiado County government will you deal with this culture unique situation?

I think the cultural aspect that we are really concerned about, is even more the way of greeting more than pastoralism, because, fortunately now it’s a rainy season, normally pastoralism is rampant during dry spell, where people move in place in search of pasture, which is actually not the case now, and so I don’t think the pastoralism element is the problem, it the culture that is a challenge because people are used to greetings — through touching heads or shaking hands — but that has been fully sensitized and people are following the directives. It’s actually out of that compliance that we recently opened our cattle markets, because we found out that all the requirements to contain Covid-19; providing hand washing points, and people keeping safe social distance is fully complied with. On the cultural front, where we are asking people you don’t have to touch children’s heads when greeting, or you don’t have to hug for women, we are satisfied that people have fully understood and they have complied. I must say that Kenya as a country has done very well to sensitize its communities and population about this. The level of awareness are very impressive because in every area, people now know that there is a problem called Covid-19, and so they know what is supposed to be done to stay safe, or to contain it and they are complying. I only want to encourage that we keep the sensitization going forward, the local FM radios are doing an excellent job, both the national and county administrations, have done a wonderful job, and of cause the curfew has heightened the awareness.

Your residents are questioning how prepared your county is in the midst of a water shortage, how do you respond to that?

For us to be able to implement the Covid-19 guidelines, we needed a budget for the same, that budget was passed last week, and I can now confirm that the water shortages that were a problem have now been fully addressed, the provision of water in all our market points; for washing hands and for and citizen provision has now been addressed… I said earlier, we are in good time in terms of season because it is rainy season, so the severe drought effect normally part of Kajiado experiences is not happening now. And so, since the County Assembly passed the [supplementary] budget and now the Executive receives the money to provide for water and all that is required, has now happen, that is why we are able to acquire our ICUs and ventilators since the budget came into force, so now that problem has been addressed.

Is there any free distribution of masks and sanitizers in Kajiado?

We are only able to provide masks to health personnel, as at now, ours is actually to sensitize the public to try and acquire them, and we are happy to see the national government trying to work a way out using National Youth Service to provide more mask, we are almost waiting for support from our development partners which will also go a long way in supplementing our government’s efforts.

What investment ideas or opportunities can Kajiado tap into during this Covid-19?

First of all, we must accept that the greatest damage that covid-19 has had so far, is the damage on our economy. Many of our people are dependent on their daily work, to get their daily bread, and that poses a great danger, and that is why there is top urgency in providing relief food because many people who would work on a daily wage are now badly affected and as a result they cannot get their daily bread and that needs to be quickly addressed. Of course, Kenya is a very enterprising community, a lot of people are now turning this Covid-19 into an enterprise by creating by creating solutions to the problems that are associated with this. The question of masks, and hand washing… we are seeing people creating a hand washing facility where you really don’t have to touch anything; using your legs you can press and get soap and get water, and so yes, Kajiado like the rest of the country, is trying to turn a bad situation into an opportunity, but the opportunities are so limited compared to massive job losses associated with the closures of businesses. It’s out of this situation that we said that if you comply with the MoH guidelines, you will be allowed to do your business, and as a result we never closed our markets, in fact we are even now going ahead to say, our saloons shops that are going to comply with these guidelines, making sure that the saloonists are properly covered with gloves; [and given] proper sanitation, they can also go ahead and do their business. So what we are basically doing is to try, in a small way, following the health guidelines, allow people to carry on with their daily life, observing the social distance and also carrying out their businesses even in a limited way, because we appreciate that the government will never be able to feed everybody.

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