Poor household conditions hurt Kenya’s fight against Covid-19

At least six in 10 Kenyan adults are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 due to poor living conditions in households, a new report shows, highlighting importance of social equity in the fight against the virus.

Latest Pan-African survey firm Afrobarometer report Covid-19 in Africa: Vulnerabilities and Assets shows that only 37 per cent are safe.

“About 63 per cent of Kenyans are at higher risk of getting the virus due to lack of proper housing facilities as well as basic essential services such as water and toilet,” reads the report.

The country’s rating is however below the continent’s average risk exposure of 66 per cent.

This comes amid a warning by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Africa could see a surge of between 29 to 44 million Covid-19 cases in the first year.

In such an event, the continent’s lean social infrastructure could get overwhelmed, resulting in millions of civilian deaths.

Already, the continent has confirmed over 1.2 million Covid-19 cases with more than 30,000 deaths. Kenya alone as at Thursday had recorded 34,704 infections with 581 deaths. Medical experts forecast higher caseloads in the continent in the coming weeks and months.

The survey, which was released in August, involved more than 34,000 respondents across 34-African countries.

“Some 25 per cent of all adults (above 59-years) run an increased risk of both being infected and developing Covid-19-related disease as many have limited access to routine or advanced medical care and related treatments,” it shows.

According to United State’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk for severe illness from Covid-19 increases with one’s age.

Whereas residents of rural areas are at greater risk of contracting the virus at 79 per cent, the report shows the virus is less severe on their urban counterparts (49 per cent).

In terms of susceptibility to the disease, rural resident are highly prone at 41 per cent with urban residents (18 per cent).

“However, urban dwellers are more open to lockdowns at 49 per cent whereas rural dwellers (15 per cent),” it shows.

A section of Kibera slums in Nairobi

A section of Kibera slums in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Countrywide, 20 per cent are open to full lockdowns with only five per cent partially-ready.

“People are considered “fully ready” to “shelter in place” if they meet all three of these criteria. Those who are only “partially ready” may not have employment or communications technology, but they at least have access to water, toilet facilities, and electricity in their own home,” it adds.

In March, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced stringent lockdown measures such as a ban on social gatherings, dusk-to-dawn curfew (7pm to 7am) as well as in and out movements in the four counties- Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Malindi- to curb spread of the virus.

Amid economic pressures, Mr Kenyatta lifted movement ban, reduced curfew hours to from 5pm to 9am and allowed social gathering under strict guidelines. However, clubs were barred.

The highest daily levels of stringency were in Kenya (95.4), Madagascar (95.4), Uganda (93.5), and Lesotho (90.7). Meanwhile, Tanzania (50.0), Malawi (57.4), and Benin (59.7) posted lowest levels.

“And very large majorities agree that key government institutions, including the police (78 per cent), courts (74 per cent), and tax officials (73 per cent), have the right to make binding decisions and to expect public obedience and/or compliance,” the report adds.

On the entire continent, citizens of Uganda (92 per cent), Niger (92 per cent), Malawi (90 per cent), Sierra Leone (89 per cent), Liberia (88 per cent) and Burkina Faso are at higher risk of getting the virus.

“While susceptibility is generally higher in countries with higher levels of exposure, Ghana, Nigeria, Namibia, and São Tomé and Príncipe have appreciably lower levels of susceptibility to illness than others that have approximately the same rates of exposure-related,” it adds.

“Mauritius (11 per cent), Tunisia (16 per cent), Botswana (30 per cent), Morocco (30 per cent) and South Africa (36 per cent) have least Covid-19 transmission rates on the continent

In terms of lockdown-readiness, Mauritius lead the continent at 92 per cent followed by Morocco (60 per cent), Tunisia (53 per cent), Cape Verde (52 per cent) and Senegal (37 per cent).

“On the other hand, Malawi (two per cent), Guinea (two per cent), Uganda (four per cent), Liberia (four per cent) and Sierra Leone (seven per cent) are countries with least preparedness,” it adds.

While most African countries enacted restrictions in February, the report shows as many as eight (almost a quarter) began in January.

Food stall in Mathare Slum

Food stall in Mathare Slum, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

“The average level of daily stringency during this period was 41.4, with a range from 24.3 (in Tanzania) to 53.7 (in Kenya),” it adds.

This comes as the report shows that 13 per cent of Kenyans go frequently without medical care, 22 per cent several times while 18 per cent once or twice.

“On average across 34 countries, more than half (53 per cent) of Africans said they went without needed medicines or medical treatment at least once during the 12 months preceding the survey, including about one in five (18 per cent) who did so “many times” or “always”,” the Afrobarometer study showed.

Moreover, it showed that men experience most difficulties while accessing healthcare services at 18 per cent compared to women (17 per cent).

“Only 12 per cent of urban dwellers go without medical care many times while rural residents come at (22 per cent).

It showed that most Kenyans see the unemployment challenge as most important at 40 per cent, health (27 per cent), infrastructure (24 per cent) and education (21 per cent).

Citizens of Morocco (80 per cent), Gabon (64 per cent), Uganda (62 per cent) and Sudan (61 per cent) experience difficulties in accessing health services.

However, those in Mauritius (22 per cent), eSwatini (27 per cent), Mali (27 per cent) and Lesotho (27 per cent) see less challenges while accessing health services.

It also shows that 18 per cent of Kenyans go without water always, 17 per cent several times while 13 per cent once or twice.

“Citizens of Guinea (50 per cent), Gabon (49 per cent), Ivory Coast (41 per cent) and Cameroon (40 per cent) go without water always,” the report adds.

Only citizens of Mauritius (two per cent), Ghana (five per cent), Morocco (five per cent) and Sao Tome and Principe (five per cent) experience least water disruptions,” it adds.

Moreover, only 22 per cent of Kenyans have access to sewerage systems with Tunisia (75 per cent), Morocco (69 per cent) and South Africa (63 per cent) leading.

Only 10 per cent access water inside their homes, 74 per cent inside the compound and 12 per cent outside the compound.

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