The Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC) has called on the national government to fully support counties in arid and semi-arid areas to fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking in Mandera on Thursday, the chairman of the council, Mandera Governor Ali Roba, said most counties in the region are not well prepared and their situation needs effective evaluation.
“Counties in the ASALs need targeted support from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water and other non-State actors. We are ill-prepared to deal with the new health challenges,” he said.
“While our counties are doing their best in putting in place what they believe to be adequate measures to deal with the challenges of Covid-19, their real state of preparedness has not been effectively evaluated. As such, it is not possible to tell in candid terms what our state of preparedness is as counties,” he said.
Mr Roba said the fragile health systems in the northern region are severely being tested during this trying period.
“There is a need for the national Ministry of Health and the presidential task force on Covid-19 to come up with or provide an elaborate checklist against which the counties can check their state of preparedness in dealing with this outbreak,” he said.
In Mandera, transportation and sale of miraa has since been suspended, but dealers have vowed to go on with the business, arguing that there is no scientific proof that the popular stimulant transmits the coronavirus.
Governor Roba’s administration has prepared a 10-bed isolation centre at the Mandera County Referral Hospital.
“In order for our counties to succeed in effectively slowing down transmission and prevent infections, we must get proper support from the national government,” he said.
He said that for the country to effectively win the war against the virus, both levels of government have a responsibility to scale up effective containment strategies by putting in place deliberate and adequate preparation and response mechanisms.
According to Mr Roba, the many boardroom meetings and press conferences in Nairobi may not be effective in dealing with a problem of the current magnitude.
“An urgent assessment of the state of preparedness by counties is required nationally before we falsely report that “as a country, we are prepared and have put the right measures in place”.
To reduce turnaround times for specimen results, Mr Roba wants the national government to urgently provide sufficient and effective testing kits to all level four and level five hospitals.
“We must carry out a countrywide assessment to make sure that the process of readying hospitals and ensuring that they have space, supplies and the needed personnel is complete in all sub-counties,” he said.
UNEMPLOYED HEALTH WORKERS
Mr Roba further asked the national government to engage the unemployed health workforce for support in dealing with the current situation.
He warned that failure by any county to handle the current delicate emergency situation will be retrogressive and a blow to the progress of the universal healthcare initiative.
“Medical personnel training across all sub-counties must be taken care of so that the collective effort can be considered adequate across the country,” he said.
He wants security forces adequately trained and provided with personal protective equipment for them to effectively enforce law and order and discharge duties during the entire period.
FCDC is a regional economic bloc comprising Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Isiolo, Turkana, Samburu and West Pokot counties.
The Council promotes cooperation, coordination and information sharing between the counties with a view to enhancing socio-economic development and promoting peaceful co-existence among its members.