Opinion

Messaging on Covid-19 should include everyone

Messaging on Covid-19 should include everyone
  • What would it take, for example, for Bwana CS Health to have a competent sign interpreter at every press briefing standing next to him?
  • This crisis offers a chance to strengthen communication, especially in reaching the often neglected segments.

Hip-hop artiste Khaligraph Jones has once again insulted Kenyans. He is right.

In a video clip circulated on social media titled “Coronavirus Freestyle”, he calls us donkeys (among other choice words unsuitable for a family newspaper) in the rap song for failing to respond sanely and maturely to orders like social-distancing and hand-washing that would help contain a virus that has turned the world upside down.

He’s one of many musicians who’ve cashed in on coronavirus-themed songs. Gospel artiste Bahati even promised a song that would “Stop corona”. What an unfortunate statement from an artiste!

Artists owe it to Kenyans to use their art to raise the consciousness of the nation.

In the book Artist the Ruler, Okot Okot p’Bitek writes that a thought system of a people is created by the most powerful, sensitive and imaginative minds that the society has produced: these are the supreme artists, the imaginative creators of their time.

With their massive following online and offline, this is the time for artists to also showcase their patriotism by reiterating every message about Covid-19 from the government.

SOLID PLAN

Khaligraph Jones probably commands more attention and interest than the eloquent Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.

His voice is running hoarse from repeating the same messages about how to keep Covid-19 at bay.

However, there’s evidence all around us of Kenyans going about their business as usual; of some matatu crews going about their business, asking “What do you want us to eat?”.

Of parents hosting birthday parties for their children. Of bars that have defied orders to shut down.

“We are telling you to keep your kids home, and not invite people to your home when, for all you know, they could be coronavirus-positive. That’s why they’re home in the first place!” said a clearly agitated CS during a media briefing.

These should ideally be streamed to demonstrate social-distancing. Khaligraph Jones can help amplify the CS’s message with his music.

Shame on every Kenyan who’s consciously making the choice to spread the virus by refusing to stay home.

But this is not to forget that the government still needs a solid plan for those to whom staying on the couch (if at all they have one) means starving to death.

DYNAMICS

But there’s a different segment of the population, too, who do not have the luxury of the choice to be indisciplined or obstinate because they have not even had an opportunity to hear or watch the messages about Covid-19.

What would you do if your only source of information about Covid-19 was the press briefings by Mr Kagwe but you couldn’t hear what he was saying?

What if your only source of information about the disease was a newspaper or pamphlet but you couldn’t read?

That’s what people with hearing or visual impairment have to undergo on a daily basis. It’s often the case during times of emergency that this critical segment of Kenyans are forgotten.

What would it take, for example, for Bwana CS Health to have a competent sign interpreter at every press briefing standing next to him?

It would also be an extreme sign of care and concern to have the written pamphlets translated into Braille.

COMMUNICATION

Fredrick Ouko, the programme officer of the Disability Rights Programme at the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, advises that while designing responses to emergencies in our society, we must always think of the breadth of diversity there is and how our messaging reaches them to achieve a truly inclusive response.

While this responsibility can’t be left to the national government and the Ministry of Health alone, it starts there. It’s the only way the communication can be termed effective.

This crisis offers a chance to strengthen communication, especially in reaching the often neglected segments.

The Health CS needs to treat the matter urgently. Let the fighting go on.

The writer comments on gender and social issues; Twitter: @ FaithOneya;