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Why Wajir's Covid-19 infection rate is high

Tuesday May 19 2020

North Eastern REGION

Residents in North Eastern Region get food aid on May 15, 2020. Most Covid-19 cases in the region are imported from Somalia. PHOTO | BRUHAN MAKONG| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BRUHAN MAKONG
By BRUHAN MAKONG
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In the last three weeks, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wajir has increased despite efforts by the county administration to curb the spread.

The county is the fourth countrywide with the highest number of cases at 15 after Nairobi, Mombasa and Kajiado. 

The rising number cases has mainly been attributed to the porous Kenya-Somalia border that is challenging to monitor movement of people.

Out of the 15 patients, 14 have a history of travel to Somalia. The Horn of Africa is currently reeling under a surge of new virus cases. The patients are livestock traders who do their business in the neighbouring country.

As of Tuesday, Somalia had recorded 1,455 cases, 57 deaths and 163 recoveries, according to case tracker Worldometer's tally.

The rising cases in Somalia has had a direct effect on the Kenyan counties that share a border with Somalia. Garissa county recorded its first Covid-19 case on Monday.

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In an earlier statement,  Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi admitted that the porous border is the biggest challenge in the fight against Covid-19 in his county.

"The long porous border with Somalia is now the new front to our infections since our people are mostly livestock herders and traders who crisscross the border many times," said Mr Abdi.

Last week, residents were cautioned against traveling to Somalia county officials.

Cultural practices and beliefs have also been pointed out as another factor contributing to the high infection rate.

Some residents believe that the virus is a disease for the 'rich' while others are still in denial of its existence.

Failure to observe the social distancing rules and reluctance to follow the guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization and Ministry of Health has also been blamed on the rising Covid-19 cases.

A spot-check by the Nation around Wajir town revealed that some residents are not wearing face masks and overcrowding in local markets is still common.

In an effort to control the spread of the virus, the county has come up with a number of intervention measures including cessation of movement in and out of some town where the first cases originated.

The government has also enhanced surveillance on the porous border as well increased Covid-19 awareness by use of campaign messages on local radio stations and public address systems.

The county has also set up quarantine facilities in the border areas, upscaled contact tracing, trained the health staff on ways to handle the virus and also closed several livestock markets near the Kenya border with Somalia.