By Lilian Dodzo, National Director for World Vision in Kenya
A year has passed, since Kenya recorded its first case of COVID-19. We thank God for thus far he has brought us. The fact that we are alive and healthy today is a testimony of His overflowing grace, mercy and love in our lives.
When the pandemic first reached our 'doorstep' in March 2020, we were all very scared and anxious, wondering what would happen to our lives and loved ones. Life changed in an instant and all of a sudden, we were living in a world with no guarantee for tomorrow.
Before the first case of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was reported in Kenya, we had seen the devastating effects of the pandemic in many developed countries where it overwhelmed healthcare systems, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths that caused immense public grief and suffering.
Health experts feared the worst for African countries such as Kenya that grapple with overstretched and underfunded health systems, as well as a high burden of infectious diseases. As such, predictions had been made that the continent would be the hardest hit by the pandemic.
We thank God that this did not become a reality and that the country has been spared from the worst effects of the pandemic. According to the World Health Organisation statistics (as of 23 February, 2021), the COVID-19 cases now stand at 104,306 in Kenya, compared to the global figure of over 100 million. A majority of those infected suffer from mild symptoms of the disease. The deaths caused by the pandemic in the country are also lower - 1,827 against the global figure of over two million.
Even though the health impacts of COVID-19 have not been profound in Kenya and most of Africa, the secondary impacts of the pandemic have been devastating on communities, especially children.
Indeed, in the aftermath of the pandemic, the country recorded an increase in gender-based violence cases, teenage pregnancies, worsened mental health problems and poverty resulting from job losses caused by the pandemic.
We are not out of the woods yet. The ripple effects of these secondary impacts of COVID-19 will be with us for some time. Nevertheless, we need to keep hope alive and keep the momentum going by playing our part to prevent infection and bounce back better from the pandemic.
Let us double our efforts in supporting vulnerable families, and especially children, to recover from the aftershocks of COVID-19, and rebuild their lives once more.
We need to help communities adjust to the new normal. The pandemic is still with us, but we can comfortably go about our daily life activities and be safe by continuing to adhere to the recommended prevention measures such as hand washing with soap and water, mask wearing and social distancing.
A year ago, the world was in the dark, with regards to tackling COVID-19. But we now have renewed hope, following the production of COVID-19 vaccines that developing nations like Kenya will be able to access through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) mechanism.
As World Vision Kenya, we continue to advocate for equitable access to vaccines. The Coronavirus disease cannot be eradicated until the whole world has equitable access to vaccines.
We also continue to educate our staff and communities to take the vaccine when their turn comes, because we have seen first-hand, from fighting diseases like measles and Ebola that vaccines do work!
Faith has to triumph over fear. As such, we need to empower communities with the right information to enable them disregard the lies and rumours being spread about the vaccines, which are causing unnecessary panic. They should instead trust the message that is coming from the medical experts.
As Jesus said many times, “do not be afraid.”
While nations worldwide scramble for the new vaccines, let us not close our hearts to the poor and most vulnerable populations living in areas with weak or non-existent health infrastructure.
Refugees, the homeless, and migrants for example, will suffer even more than the general population. We need to keep our hearts open their needs.
Now more than ever, we need to be cognisant of the needs of children, many of whom are still struggling to come to terms with the devastating impacts and after-effects of the pandemic and the disruptions that COVID-19 caused in their lives.
Beyond the physical support accorded to children (through cash transfers, learning materials, provision of water, masks or hand washing facilities), we should also seek to address the psychosocial needs of those scarred and traumatised by the pandemic, so as to enable them bounce back to normalcy faster.
For instance, children that got pregnant amidst the pandemic should not be stigmatised or shunned by families and communities. We should show them love, offer psychosocial support and find ways of reintegrating them back to school, so they can continue with their education.
We should also build the resilience of families to COVID-19 and future disasters through economic empowerment initiatives that will boost their income levels and enable them to take good care of their children.
As we continue to come to terms with the realities of the pandemic and with the efforts being made to bring it under control, I have no doubt that in the end, we will triumph over COVID-19.
Featured photo (at the top): Communities in Kenya are slowly bouncing back better from the pandemic in Kenya.©World Vision Photo/Sarah Ooko.