By Gatonye Gathura
About 725,000 poor people living in urban slums will get free food for a period of three months during the Covid 19 economic lockdown.
The slum residents, mainly in Mathare and Kibera both in Nairobi, will receive either door-to-door food deliveries or cash transfers to see them through the current crisis.
Spending details on a Sh28 billion emergency fund launched by the United Nations – Kenya Team early this month shows about Sh10.6 billion will go into feeding 1.7 million Kenyans who urgently need food.
“Unconditional in-kind and cash transfers will enable poor household to access food and basic needs during the COVID-19 crisis,” says the plan published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
The report says current measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19 which include the closure of some business have led to the loss of income and disruption of access to food, particularly in informal settlements.
Failure to respond to the basic needs of the people especially food and water, the UN says might trigger protests, civil unrest and violence and caution law enforcement agencies against heavy-handedness against the public.
The proposal indicates five million Kenyans require food assistance but only 1.7 million are initially targeted in the April to September plan.
This number includes refugees, street families, children’s homes and homes of the elderly and slum households.
The plan identifies Nairobi with about one million people in urgent need of food assistance followed by Mombasa with about 100, 000 and then refugees.
The details show 380,000 refugees in Dadaab and Kakuma will benefit from cash transfers for six months.
This is because their normal deliveries have been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions in port operations.
“The World Food Programme (WFP) will work with the Government to make safe distributions utilizing partnerships with Posta and private sector telecom provider Safaricom with door-to-door deliveries.”
A part of the Sh 10.6 billion will also go into helping farmers and herders on crop and livestock production and also assist families affected by the ongoing floods and locust invasions.
Health after food will be the second-largest beneficiary budgeted to receive Sh 6 billion. This will go into strengthening COVID 19 containment measures such as reducing deaths and illnesses.
Part of the health assistance will include the establishment of a 10-bed capacity isolation facility in each hospital in refugee camps and the identification of additional isolation facilities for use; if hospitals are overwhelmed.
The UN- Kenya Team also plans to spend Sh2.5 billion mainly to support the online and electronic home learning. This will include purchasing additional textbooks to support home learning mainly for examination candidates.
“It will also provide airtime support for online teachers so that they are able to remotely follow up on their students.”
The team says the programme whose launch was overseen by cabinet secretaries Ukur Yatani and Eugene Wamalwa, will supplement government efforts in responding to the Covid 19 crisis.
“I would like to commend the United Nations partners for standing with us during this difficult times,” said Yatani.
This assistance plan is partially based on an impact assessment by the World Food Programme – Nairobi office on how the COVID epidemic is likely to unfold in East Africa.
WFP says while there are no reliable predictions on the future spreading of the virus, it is just only a matter of time before the outbreak increases exponentially in the region.
So far the spread of the disease in Africa has largely fallen behind most projections. On March 20th, one week after the first Covid 19 case was confirmed in Kenya the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Mutahi Kagwe warned that the next two weeks would be decisive.
Almost seven weeks on, cases lag behind projections almost everywhere in Africa promoting a search for explanations.
“Some indicative research points towards a lower risk of contracting Covid-19 for populations covered by the TB vaccine which is the case in many developing countries in Asia and Africa,” says the WFP report.
A warmer climate and young population have been suggested as somehow lowering the risk of the pandemic severely spreading within Africa.
A new projection by Cornell University, US and, Qatar University, suggest age may be the biggest cause of lower Covid 19 cases in Africa compared to other regions of the world.
“Countries with predominantly younger age cohorts may experience smaller and slower epidemics,” said the study published last week in medRxiv database.
“Our study demonstrates how the lower susceptibility among younger persons, particularly children, acts to provide herd immunity.”
The new projections suggest the disease in Kenya will only infect 0.5 per cent of the population reaching 425 daily cases at the peak of the epidemic.
Current projections estimate the disease could infect between two to three per cent of Kenya’s population.
The Cornell University study authors, however, warn countries such as Kenya with a young population not to be complacent as the pandemic could still exact a heavy toll.