The Social Justice Centres Press Statement on the Corona Virus Situation in Kenya

Kenyans, the majority who cannot afford to work or home or don’t have enough water or any hand sanitizers, are struggling with the restrictions brought about by the Corona virus situation. See a statement from the Social Justice Centers Working Group below.

18 March 2020

THE SOCIAL JUSTICE CENTERS PRESS STATEMENT ON CORONA VIRUS SITUATION IN KENYA 

The Social Justice Centers Working Group wants to join Kenyans in commending the Kenyan Government in the steps they have taken to try and contain the spread of Covid 19 although not as timely as Kenyans would have wished for. When Kenyans pushed for the cancellation of flights and better preparation in the event the pandemic hit the country, the government in its style and fashion dismissed the concerns of its citizens. We now find ourselves in a precarious position where restriction of movement and observation of the health guidelines could mean financial disability and starvation for the larger majority with no clear good will from the government on how to tackle this. 

While we appreciate the efforts that are now in place, the Social Justice Centers Working Group is deeply concerned by the practicability of the health measures put in place. The informal settlements that are densely populated are almost between a rock and a hard place because the guidelines put out are not anything they can abide to even if their lives depended on it. 

In his address to the Nation, the president advised citizens to work from home except those offering essential services. While essential services might mean different things depending on which side of the divide you come from (the haves and the have not’s). A simple interpretation on the ground in the informal settlements means no means of survival. Mama mboga is essential service, public toilets are essential services, water vending are essential services, hawking is an essential service because such are the wheels that drive our economies in the informal settlements and working from home is not an option. A day in the house for most people living in the informal settlements means a day without a meal on the table. Such blatant disconnection from the common mwananchi and their reality shows a failed government. We hereby demand that the government offer alternatives to the millions of Kenyans who are casual laborers and depend on daily earnings for survival. 

The saving grace in this pandemic has been ensuring we observe hygiene. The ministry of health has been in the front line championing for the use of sanitizers and hand washing yet has not given a sustainable solution to the more than 80% of people living in the informal settlements with no access to water and cannot afford the hand sanitizers. The assumption that all Kenyans can access water and soap is not only ignorant but careless and we demand that the government now shows more seriousness in combating this pandemic by supplying all Kenyans who cannot afford these essentials. 

In this regard we demand that the government: 

1. Restore water supply to all the estates and slums and crack down on all water cartels extorting citizens. 

2. Speedily dispatch water tankers to areas that have no running water and depend on water points that are congested and expensive. 

3. Provide free or subsidized hand sanitizers clearly marked by the MOH. 

4. Equip government health centers with testing kits, trained personnel and ambulances to be able to handle emergency cases. 

5. The government must control the prices of basic commodities to ensure most Kenyans can afford, give relief food to those who cannot afford. 

Lastly, the public is in panic and very little education is being given to allay fears and to assure Kenyans of their preparedness. The constitution of Kenya gives Kenyans the right to information and yet the government has largely depended on digital platforms to spread the message disregarding the reality that not everyone is tech savvy or on digital platforms. Mass public health education must be rolled out if we are to fight this pandemic successfully. 

In the fight for social justice and equity, access to affordable and good healthcare has been one of the core campaigns of the Social justice working group. Through participatory action research and robust lobbying, we have severally pushed for better health care in public hospitals and it is very unfortunate that Kenyans now suffer because of an irresponsible and corrupt government that has brought the health care sector to its knees. We call upon the government to live out the mandate given to it by Wanjiku to serve them diligently, without discrimination or alienation. People from the informal settlements and Kenya at large deserve a dignified life. It is their right. 

The Social Justice Centers Working Group will on its part continue to Organize, Educate, and Liberate until we are a Social Justice Nation.

A Luta Continua. 

Signed 

WILFRED OLAL 

CONVENER, 

SOCIAL JUSTICE CENTERS WORKING GROUP. 

ON BEHALF OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE. 

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