By Salad Malicha
Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, first reported on 13th March 2020, data-based evidence has shown that the current outbreak in the various counties in Kenya is through the importation of the virus from counties where transmission is ongoing. The role of the county governments in the current COVID-19 response is, therefore, a critical component in managing the pandemic.
For the umpteenth time, an independent team of experts in all field of Health was dispatched from the national government, declared Isiolo county as the best from the four-county clusters they were assigned to inspect the COVID-19 preparedness and responses, granting Isiolo County an average score of 85 per cent which is a milestone achievement.
The COVID-19 preparedness task force team led by Professor Kaloki, handed the expert assessment report to the Governor, after physically visiting and assessing ten medical facilities in Isiolo, availability and functionality of the county emergency rapid response and multiagency teams, human resources for health capacity, infrastructure capacity to support the current pandemic and essential services delivery, oxygen supply and laboratory testing services, health commodities and essential equipment, risk management plan and finance mechanisms and cost management, leaving no stone unturned.
The team confirmed an earlier inspection report by a World Bank team under the auspices of Kenya Development and Support Programme, that as a result of the impressive performance, granted the county a further Kshs. 120 million which the Governor has undertaken to construct a 300-bed facility that even after COVID-19, will be used as an Infectious Disease Centre. The splendid performance was considerably informed by the following raft activities put in place by the county government.
The County government embarked on establishing rapid response team in all the three sub-counties which comprises of technical officers from the county department of Health. The team manages daily operations and implement the emergency response plan in the three respective sub-counties. They also guided on surveillance, deliberation and protection of public and healthcare workers; There were intensified case findings through a robust surveillance system, engagement of community workers, the involvement of volunteers and grass-root mobilisers has yielded fruits in the fight against the virus. This has resulted in more people in Isolation and quarantine centres.
Cognizant of the fact that some COVID-19 patients may require Intensive Care Unit and High Dependency Unit services, The department swung into action to avail the much-needed facilities under extraneous circumstances from Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies. Besides, the county government had a structured partnership arrangement with Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies which was ratified last year. This was in line with Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2015, section 103 (2)(a)(b)(c) and (e).
Community members were continuously sensitized through various media both local and national including our wide range of Community Health Volunteers. The messages include what is a coronavirus, mode of spread, preventive measures, signs and symptoms, case definitions, the vulnerable groups and the role of community members including adherence and compliance to government directives.
Hand washing facilities and sanitation booths have been established at all public places including health facilities, markets places and government offices as well as enforcing and ensuring total compliance by traders in town centres and estates in the installation of these facilities at designated places. In addition to that, since 21st March 2020 more than 154,000 passengers have been screened at all points of entry.
The county government purchased and distributed assorted food items to cushion 16,000 households against hunger and malnutrition during these hard times of COVID-19. Moreover, medical supplies were also dispatched to vulnerable people in far-flung and flood-hit areas. The county government has partnered with more than fifteen local and international non-state organisations to scale up humanitarian response during this period of the novel COVID-19 pandemic.
The county COVID-19 rapid response and the emergency team was involved in the preparation and response phase in the areas of strengthening the emergency operations, coordination and leadership, case management, contact tracing, laboratory management, surveillance strengthening, communications and resource mobilisation and procurement. To boot these activities, the success stories of the county has been spiralled by a continuous and harmonious collaboration between national and county governments to review containment with security agencies on curfews and quarantining to minimize economic impacts. Furthermore, there were regular reviews of cross border travel and preparedness.
The war on Covid-19 in counties seems to be on its deathbed, with 41 of them failing to submit reports on contact tracing to the Ministry of Health. By Wednesday last week, only six counties – Nairobi, Turkana, Isiolo, Meru, Mandera and Taita Taveta – had submitted their reports, meaning the remaining had done little or nothing to trace patients’ contacts. Some counties have not traced a single person who interacted with Covid-19 patients in a month. Isiolo county’s steadfastness was further validated and corroborated by the Ministry’s report.
Top performers include; Mandera County which is leading in contact tracing as per the Ministry of Health data. It is the only county that has done about 95 per cent of the work, having found all 27 contacts listed. It is followed by Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot, which have traced their six cases each. Isiolo County, with about five cases, has also done well in the area, having traced 56 patients.
Finally, as the coronavirus related deaths and cases rise exponentially each day, this is the time to quarantine COVID politics and instead double collective efforts toward flattening of the curve. The coronavirus like all other viruses has no tribe, race, religion or nationality and as such petty politics will only serve to distract the county from the core mission of defeating the pandemic.
We have demonstrated the pliability, bravery and wisdom required to conquer this invisible enemy. Our prayers and thanks to our brave and dedicated medical professionals, their support staff, essential service providers and humanitarian organisations.
We thank God for those who are working every day to curb the spread of the COVID-19 in the county.