Opinion

Kisumu needs Nyong'o in virus fight front line

Kisumu needs Nyong'o in virus fight front line
  • The changes were no doubt inspired by concerns over the county’s preparedness against the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Governor Nyong’o has been rightly criticised for his failure to find a solution for the endless paralysis of Kisumu’s health services.

On Friday, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o shuffled his top administration officials, transferring the county Health executive and personally taking charge of the docket.

The changes were no doubt inspired by concerns over the county’s preparedness against the coronavirus pandemic.The governor’s decision to take over the Health docket in an acting capacity raised eyebrows, with critics questioning his competence in the role and not trusting anyone else to do the job. Yet Prof Nyong’o’s move could be just what the doctor ordered.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasised the key role of leadership in efforts to slow down the spread of the virus.

HEALTH CHALLENGE

Indeed, all the early successes against the virus around the world have been attributed to leaders who quickly mobilised their communities and deployed resources to tackle the public health challenge.

The WHO has heaped praise on Singapore and a few other countries for their “early and aggressive action” that enabled them to contain the outbreak.

Kisumu has yet to report a case, with Nairobi accounting for all the seven confirmed in Kenya by Friday. But there are many reasons to fear for the county’s public health in the event the coronavirus gets there.The results of an official survey released last month showed that Kisumu has the second-highest HIV prevalence in the country at 17.5 per cent, behind neighbouring Homa Bay at 19.6 per cent.

The two counties and their neighbours Siaya and Migori are also hotspots for the other top killers like tuberculosis, malaria and diarrhoeal diseases. Such a high disease burden renders the populations of these counties vulnerable to the virus.

The WHO has warned that the effects of a Covid-19 outbreak could be worse in communities where there are many people living with HIV/Aids due to low immunity.

VULNERABILITY For Kisumu, the vulnerability has been aggravated by a near-collapsed public health system. By late last month, patients could hardly access services at its public health facilities due to a health workers’ strike.

Governor Nyong’o has been rightly criticised for his failure to find a solution for the endless paralysis of Kisumu’s health services.

But it is weird to question his decision to step forward to lead the battle against the coronavirus from the front. Kisumu’s case is different.

***Nairobi’s streets were once ruled by fearsome muggers who would waylay you around banks and put you in an elbow chokehold called “ngeta” as they relieved you of your cash.

Last week, the city watched its most high-profile “ngeta” yet on live television. A visibly shaken Governor Mike Sonko was made to sign away key functions of City Hall to the national government at State House.

; @otienootieno