Four months of partial lockdown to contain coronavirus infections have brought grave shocks on Kenyans. The number of job losses is rising painfully and, with that, dwindling incomes. The net result is that many people are getting pauperised and rendered unable to meet their obligations.
This is the grim reality coming out of the latest government survey on the impact on Covid-19 on households released Thursday by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.
In its highlight, the report shows 61.9 per cent of workers have been forced out of jobs due to the pandemic. But most worrying is that about 78 per cent of them are not sure of resuming work even if the virus is vanquished.
Either companies will wind up or jobs become irrelevant as industries morph and new realities emerge.
But these are conservative figures because they relate largely to formal jobs. Losses are massive in the informal sector, which engages the bulk of the population.
Lost income has rendered 37 per cent of tenants in rental houses unable to pay rent. Another 30.9 per cent have been forced to negotiate with landlords and stagger payments.
The ‘Survey on Socio-Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Households Report’ shows rising food prices and, coming against diminishing incomes, the future looks bleak.
Food is critical in the fight against the coronavirus, and so it is disastrous when families cannot afford it. There is great danger when a large segment of the population is incapacitated and thrown to the streets. Violence, mental depression and other social vices rise.
When, early this week, President Uhuru Kenyatta partially lifted the containment measures such as allowing travel in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera counties, the guiding principle was to open up the economy and save livelihoods. But it is too early in the day to determine the outcomes of the move.
In the past few months, the government has rolled out several initiatives to cushion the citizenry against the ravages of the virus. They include tax waivers, relief and cash disbursement to sectors like tourism and agriculture. But their impact has not been felt.
Yet the pandemic has not reached the peak. Thursday, there were 447 new cases, the highest yet in a day, sending a chill down the spine and signalling that we are yet to see the worst of Covid-19. The dilemma remains saving lives or livelihoods.
The government has to revisit the strategies already put in place to facilitate economic recovery and make more decisions that would yield greater positive impact. A lot has to be done to lift the people from the pangs of economic pain.