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Kitui ill prepared to respond to Covid-19amid possible re-opening of the economy

Kitui County has not met the minimum 300 bed capacity threshold in readiness for Covid-19 patients’ admission, ahead of the lifting of cessation of movement by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In his national address on June 6, the President directed each of the 47 counties to have a minimum 300 bed capacity set aside for Covid-19 patients to complement the country’s capability to handle the surging coronavirus cases.

The Head of State announced that his administration had set aside Sh 5 billion to be shared amongst the devolved units to achieve the national targets of 35, 000 isolation beds.

The County’s preparedness to handle Covid-19 patients is sluggish with a paltry 74 bed capacity spread across its four isolation centers despite receiving funds from the national government to fast track the procurement of the beds.

Speaking in her office in Kitui on Thursday after launching a Sh 25 million European Union funded programme to be implemented by Amref Health Africa and Red Cross to combat Covid-19, Governor Charity Ngilu said that prototype beds have been given to jua kali artisans in the county to make in the spirit of Buy Kenya Build Kenya clarion call to empower local entrepreneurs.

Kitui County Governor Charity Ngilu. The County is rushing against time to procure 300 isolation beds for Covid-19 patients, currently it has a paltry 74 beds spread across its four isolation centres. Photo: Yobesh Onwong’a/KNA.

‘I am optimistic that we shall achieve the required threshold of the beds in all our Covid-19 isolation centres. These beds will be made locally within the county. They might not be exactly like those imported ones but will definitely serve the intended purpose,’ said Governor Ngilu.

She admitted that resources are available for procuring the beds adding that she wants the money to remain within the county by sourcing from local suppliers.

‘We are ready to deal with the situation as it unfolds. If cessation of movement is lifted, we shall welcome back our children stuck in urban areas and those who lost their jobs back home before they find their footing again,’ said  the Governor

She said the expected mass exodus from areas under cessation might trigger a spike in the Covid-19 cases but added that the county will bolster its surveillance systems and testing to ensure the elderly and vulnerable groups and the general population is safe.

‘Let our people continue to adhere to the Ministry of Health guidelines at all times to ensure that together we win the war against coronavirus,’ she said.

The European Union funds will be used to strengthen the health response to Covid-19 through Amref Health Africa and Kenya Red Cross Society in  20 counties across Kenya.

Amref Health Africa Chief of Party Gilbert Wangalwa said the project will strengthen the health response to Covid-19 at the national and county levels.

‘This will be an inclusive and gender responsive way, enhance community engagement for a better management and control of Covid-19, and provide safety nets for the most vulnerable households shielding them from the worst of the pandemic’s impact on the economy,’ said Wangalwa.

The funding will support Nairobi, Nyeri, Kiambu, Laikipia, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Kajiado, Machakos and Kitui counties with the emergency response to Covid-19, by strengthening the national and sub-national capacity to detect Covid-19 at source, manage the virus and deliver continuity of essential health services.

Wangalwa noted that the action will equip county referral hospitals with medical equipment and supplies, strengthen diagnostic capabilities and case management.

Further, he said that the grant will support continuity of services, intensify community engagement working with community health workers and other stakeholders, deploy early warning community based surveillance systems, and strengthen coordination both at national and county levels.

“Through enhanced health systems and community engagement, counties will be able to respond better to the Covid-19 pandemic through enhanced screening, diagnosis, contact tracing and case management, while supporting continuity of other essential health services,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, the Kenya Red Cross Society will scale up community health volunteers capacities to improve communities’ adherence to government control measures, scaling up case detection, contact tracing and referrals in Kisumu, Kakamega, Busia, Migori, Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu and Kwale counties.

He said that these are the high-risk counties identified by the multi-sectoral national Covid-19 task force due to their current infection rates, location on borders and highly mobile populations.

The Red Cross Society will also contribute to the screening of frontline health care providers and the deployment of surge teams.

“This funding will further our auxiliary role of supporting the government’s efforts in stopping the spread of Covid-19, saving lives, and building resilience in the health care system and in communities,’’ noted Wangalwa.

By Yobesh Onwong’a

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