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Bishops in Kenya Fault Government for “leaving health-care workers exposed, vulnerable”

Health workers attend to COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit of an isolation and treatment center for those with COVID-19 in Machakos, South of the capital Nairobi, in Kenya.

The failure by Kenya’s government to “consistently” support the healthcare system despite availability of funds is a concern for Catholic Bishops in the East African nation who fault the country’s leadership for “leaving health-care workers exposed and vulnerable.”

In their collective message shared with ACI Africa Friday, November 20, members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) call on the government to prioritize available resources for COVID-19 response.

“We remain concerned that, despite budget availability and commitment by the Executive, resources have not been consistently provided to support the health care system to adequately respond to this pandemic, leaving health-care workers exposed and vulnerable,” KCCB members say in their statement dated November 20.

The Bishops say they are “deeply concerned” that COVID-19 has claimed the lives of healthcare workers who “have been the force behind our many reported recoveries and have given Kenyans the much-needed hope during this difficult period.”

Since the first case of the coronavirus was reported in Kenya in March, at least 30 healthcare workers have succumbed to the virus, among them ten senior specialists, according to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Doctors Union (KMPDU).

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“We cannot continue to watch the only hope of the Kenyan people go down through loss of hope and especially loss of life as we have witnessed in the past few days,” KCCB members emphasize, making reference to healthcare workers who have succumbed to the coronavirus.

As a way forward, the Catholic Bishops in Kenya ask the government “to move with haste to prioritize the available resources within Government and provide the required facilitation to the health-care system to allow it to respond to the burden of this disease.”

With doctors in the East African nation threatening to down their tools on December 7 in protest over what they say is neglect and poor working conditions, KCCB members call “for urgent but genuine dialogue with health-care workers’ Unions so that their concerns can be meaningfully listened to and addressed.”

In the two-page statement signed by KCCB Chairman, Archbishop Philip Anyolo, the Prelates convey their “deep appreciation and admiration towards health-care workers who have continued to work to save lives despite the challenges they are facing.”

“We pray to God for your protection even as you have given your lives serving the sick and those most in need of mercy. May God’s blessings be upon your lives and your families,” the Bishops say in their November 20 statement.

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They however bemoan the failure by “a section of the leadership of the Country” to heed to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call “to a state of personal responsibility in our operations and interactions”  amid a “recent surge in Covid-19 cases, positivity rates and mortality rates especially as reported during the month of November 2020.”

“Our great worry is the lack of compliance with these prevention guidelines by a section of the leadership of the Country and subsequently by many Kenyans,” KCCB members say.

Kenya has recorded a surge in COVID-19 reported cases and related deaths in the month of November, a situation the leadership of the country’s Ministry of Health attributes to the public’s disregard of COVID-19 guidelines. 

In the two weeks ending November 14, the country recorded 4,081 new COVID-19 cases and 253 deaths, with as high as 1,470 cases reported in a single day.

To date, the country has recorded at least 74,145 cases, 50,658 recoveries and 1,330 deaths.

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Amid the spike in infections, KCCB members say that “undertaking the right measures as guided by the health authorities and adopting these with speed, the spread of this virus can still be contained.”

They underscore the need for individual responsibility “to protect oneself, family and community from Covid-19.”

They further urge all “not to downplay this pandemic even if your neighborhood has not been highlighted as a hotspot of the disease or your age and general good health status not considered as risky.”

“We also appeal to you all to remain calm because panic blurs vision and subjects judgement and action,” KCCB members say and “invite all Kenyans and people of good will to continue praying for the end of this pandemic.”

They implore, “When we trust in God, we have hope. We should not fear for God is with us; we should not be dismayed for He is our God; He will strengthen and help us.”