The Covid-19 pandemic has not only heightened uncertainty across all fields of endeavour of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), but also demanded creativity and innovation in responding to the challenges ahead.
The story of the AKDN’s involvement in Kenya is one that I think is reflective of several principles: a long-term commitment to the country; a vision that looks past the horizon of single crises; a belief that multiple inputs from different sectors are essential to ensuring a better quality of life of Kenyans; and a willingness to adapt, and be flexible and resilient in response to changing conditions.
These principles guide the work of our respective agencies, and explain why we are involved in all areas of development. AKDN’s presence in Kenya stretches back over 100 years. This commitment is reflected in our substantial contribution to the Government’s Emergency Relief Fund towards the pandemic, as well as the direct impact our interventions have had on people.
Our three hospitals and 70 outreach clinics in 21 counties have supported the country’s healthcare systems. The Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi worked closely with the ministry of Health and others to create a 100-bed field hospital, to cater exclusively for the isolation of Covid-19 patients.
It also invented new ways of using individual ventilators for more than one patient at a time, thereby increasing capacity. This knowledge was shared with the Ministry. In Mombasa and Kisumu, our hospitals have ensured continuity of care to patients through medical tele-consultation, as well as substantial investments in new protective, diagnostic and treatment equipment.
Diamond Trust Bank, with its 69-branch network across many counties, was able to work collaboratively with county governments to reach and provide food relief packages to over 6,400 families across the country through its DTB Gives Back initiative.
This is in addition to implementing financial relief measures for clients and promoting cashless and digital banking channels to reduce the physical handling of cash.
Jubilee Insurance Company’s pledge towards Covid-19 relief ensured numerous organisations received essential protective equipment; the company also introduced medical tele-consultations by partnering with SasaDoctor as part of its unique value-added Wellness Programme.
The pandemic has also had a profound impact on children and the way we view education. The Aga Khan schools in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret rapidly converted their teaching platform to distance-learning for over 4,800 students.
The Aga Khan Academies in Mombasa and Nairobi had, for the first time, virtual graduation ceremonies, attended by parents and guests who signed in from around the world. The Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications has held media training sessions for journalists to improve reporting around the pandemic, as well as numerous webinars hosting prominent subject matter experts.
The Nation Media Group (NMG), in addition to extensive reporting on the pandemic, partnered with the Ministry of Health on the Safe Nation initiative to educate the public on safety measures.
NMG also transformed its Nation Leadership Forum into a digital livestreaming platform, to address the economic and social impact of the pandemic. 15 topics have been covered since March.
The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), having restructured its programmes, is drawing on its extensive network with civil society organisations to focus on pandemic-related issues, and is also partnering with NMG to support its education initiatives.
AKF has also worked with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to design content for teachers to introduce play-based activities into learning – this will now be rolled out through NMG’s print, digital and broadcasting platforms.
Ensuring the safety of our over 16,000 workforce and their families remains a priority. Industrial Promotion Services (IPS), for example, has put substantial effort towards educating and providing its workers with safety equipment, as well as implementing safety measures in its companies such as Frigoken, Allpack Industries, Farmers Choice, Premier Food Industries.
IPS continues to ensure uninterrupted food supply chains for the over 70,000 farmers it engages with.
The principles which have guided the AKDN’s involvement both in Kenya and around the world are a testament to the leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shi’a Ismaili Muslims. His Highness sees improving the quality of life of humankind as the mandate of his office. The AKDN serves to further this vision.
This means working with partners to improve the quality of life and engender self-reliance for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, and drawing on strong ethics and values – compassion, concern for vulnerable people, generosity, excellence.
Today, on the 63rd anniversary of His Highness’ ascension to becoming the Imam, we celebrate his vision, and our contribution towards Kenya’s COVID-19 response.
Dr. Azim Lakhani is the Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network in Kenya.