An Open Letter to CS Mutahi Kagwe

Dear Bwana Waziri, I was quite heart­ened last week to learn that Kenya is plan­ning to build a vac­ci­na­tion plant by 2024. Indeed, Africa should not be in per­pet­u­al depen­dence on for­eign coun­tries to sup­ply it with life-sav­ing vac­cines. I also applaud the fact that your team remains focused on vac­ci­nat­ing 26 mil­lion Kenyans by the end of 2022. You deserve our sup­port because this vac­ci­na­tion is a fire­wall against COVID-19 and will has­ten our eco­nom­ic and social restoration.

Hel­mut Schmidt a for­mer Chan­cel­lor of Ger­man, once said that, ‘the biggest room in the world is the one for improve­ment.’ Allow me to share with you some broth­er­ly room for improve­ment in our fight against COVID.

A week ago, I used Jomo Keny­at­ta Inter­na­tion­al Air­port to facil­i­tate my trav­el. Dis­tress­ing­ly, there was a larg­er crowd at the airport’s check in area than at Marik­i­ti mar­ket. Five flights were depart­ing at about the same time. Each flight with over 200 pas­sen­gers, real­is­ti­cal­ly social dis­tanc­ing was absolute­ly impos­si­ble.  That was large­ly because two air­port ter­mi­nals, 1C & 1B are cur­rent­ly closed down for ren­o­va­tions by the Kenya Air­ports Author­i­ties. This repair could have been done in a stag­gered fash­ion or logis­tics be pre­arranged to allow flights to leave at dif­fer­ent times. You may agree with me that such crowd­ing whether at the Marik­i­ti mar­ket, Inter­na­tion­al Air­port or Polit­i­cal ral­lies must stop forthwith. 

Bwana Waziri, you may not be aware that Kenya is one of only about four des­ti­na­tions World over that air­line crew are still required to wear Per­son­al Pro­tec­tive Equip­ment (PPE) gear. Most oth­er glob­al des­ti­na­tions have dropped this uncom­fort­able and some­how inef­fi­cient require­ment. If this strict health stan­dard could also be extend­ed to pas­sen­gers, I would have no prob­lem with it. It was how­ev­er quite telling to see air­line crew clad in PPE attend­ing to pas­sen­gers who they had just been forced to over­crowd with. You may agree with me that such selec­tive appli­ca­tion of covid pro­to­cols may under­mine the fight against COVID.

At about this time that I was trav­el­ling, a friend’s daugh­ter was trav­el­ling to Ugan­da. She under­went Covid tests in Kenya and Ugan­da and received con­flict­ing results and mind-bog­gling com­mands. Hun­dreds of trav­el­ers in the East Africa Com­mu­ni­ty are going through sim­i­lar con­fu­sion and dis­tress. I sug­gest that you con­sid­er employ­ing a har­mo­nized Covid-19 pro­to­col for the region.

Unknown to you my broth­er, our Min­istry of Health online Covid update appli­ca­tion is expe­ri­enc­ing inter­mit­tent update delays lead­ing to mul­ti­ple trav­el­ers miss­ing their flights from var­i­ous air­ports. Painful­ly the Inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty is now jok­ing about our inef­fi­cient app. Pas­sen­gers are there­fore being direct­ed to use alter­na­tive WHO online plat­forms. I per­son­al­ly expe­ri­enced this in the pres­ence of a senior Gov­ern­ment officer. 

Bwana Waziri, to deal with the issues of vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy I sug­gest that you sen­si­bly rope in ordi­nary peo­ple, reli­gious lead­ers, youth lead­ers, polit­i­cal lead­ers and opin­ion lead­ers of all stripes. This way, peo­ple who might not lis­ten to polit­i­cal lead­ers will end up lis­ten­ing to their neigh­bors or to reli­gious and soci­etal leaders.

Rea­son­ably, the vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy dis­com­fort we are cur­rent­ly expe­ri­enc­ing is not unique to Kenya even with less than 5% of Kenyans vac­ci­nat­ed. A few months ago in June, the Morn­ing Con­sul poll revealed that, three out of ten Amer­i­cans were either unwill­ing or uncer­tain about get­ting the Covid-19 vac­cine.  This num­ber is even high­er in Rus­sia where, vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy plagues half of the pop­u­la­tion. It is clear Bwana Waziri that Gov­ern­ments across the world will have to work hard­er to con­vince huge chunks of their pop­u­la­tion to get the COVID vac­cine. Ener­gize your team to work even harder.

Last­ly, sir, you may agree with me that it is in the inter­est of your min­istry of health just like it is for my friend Hon Tobiko’s min­istry of Envi­ron­ment and all Kenyans alike to ensure a green and clean envi­ron­ment towards Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals. The sol­id waste com­ing from PPEs is becom­ing unman­age­able. Can you please strate­gize to allo­cate bud­get and prac­ti­cal­ly clean up as we all think and act green? 

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About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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