Although there have only been a few cases of Covid-19 so far, in Kenya - the impact of the pandemic is being felt across the country. The Church in Kenya is working hard to raise awareness in the community so that measures imposed by the government to combat the spread of the virus are respected.
Father Robbin Kamemba, from the Society for African Missions (SMA) who works in Nairobi, said four counties have been closed for 21 days from 6 April: the metropolitan area of Nairobi and the counties of the coast of Kwale, Mombasa and Kilifi.
The decision was taken following a meeting of the National Security Council, after coronavirus cases in the country started to increase. From 50 positive cases confirmed at the end of March, there are now at least 179, all being monitored in public facilities such as Mbagathi and Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, and also in private clinics equipped with intensive care units.
In Kenya there is no complete lockdown, but people are encouraged to stay home. Fr Robbin said: "in Nairobi we still see many people outdoors who do not observe social distancing in markets, public transport, and behave as if nothing is happening."
The capital, in fact, leads the sad ranking with 82% of positive cases, hence the decision of President Uhuru Kenyatta to close borders across the urban and suburban area of Nairobi.
The situation is complicated especially for the inhabitants who live in low-income areas, where tensions and clashes with the police are recorded: Fr Robbin said: "In the poorer neighbourhoods, many families can only rely on daily earnings: they must therefore being able to continue to carry out their activities. At the same time, it is everyone's responsibility to comply with the curfew from 7pm to 5am in the morning."
Catholic educational institutions have also taken steps to limit the spread of coronavirus. The Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA) and Tangaza University College (TUC) in Nairobi have suspended classroom activities and replaced them with online lessons.
"In this critical period of fear and despair the Church, through the use of mass media, offers support, closeness and solidarity to the faithful, inviting them to live as brothers and sisters, and together to pray to God to help us get out of this pandemic: it will be our Easter of resurrection."
Meanwhile, Kenyan government spokesman, Cyrus Each, has announced that the country has accepted the request of the African Union and the World Health Organization to host the African Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, a medical research centre for the control of infections and pandemics. China has offered to finance the construction of the new institute, which will be based in Nairobi: "The Chinese government has invested 72 million euros in this project" the missionary said. "Once completed, Africa CDC will provide job opportunities for Kenyans for specializations and technical, administrative and support functions. This reality, not only will be a valuable contribution in the fight against epidemics such as the current one, but will certainly give a significant impulse to strengthen health systems throughout the African continent, to build resilient communities that focus on the person and the family."
One area that has been very badly affected indirectly, by the coronavirus, is Turkana in the northwest of the country. Although there have been no cases of the virus in this remote desert region, because long distance lorries to come to the area, the St Paul's Missionary Community has had to follow government guidelines and close all three primary schools and 18 nurseries which provide education and meals for about 5,000 children. These projects and others are funded by the UK-based charity New Ways. Besides requiring funding for food for the children and the teachers' salaries they need urgent support for a hygiene project, so they can distribute soap, sanitiser and water, as well as arrange seminars in the community to explain to the people why this is so important. Many in Turkana already have very fragile health, due to the shortage of food, a significant increase in malaria and an increase in cholera.
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