The battle against the Covid-19 pandemic has taken us through a great deal of personal lessons. We have learnt to spend more time at home and adapt to working remotely.
At a national level, it would be right to argue that the most significant lesson learned is the importance of working together to address the challenges.
President Uhuru Kenyatta met the 47 governors and emphasised the need for the two levels of government to join forces in the Covid-19 fight.
Governor Mohamed Kuti reiterated this when he said: “With the disease spreading so fast locally, the responsibility now rests with the counties that should seek partnerships and do everything possible to up their game in fighting the virus”.
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The virus knows no boundaries, making inter-county cooperation imperative. In his eighth presidential address on the coronavirus pandemic at the State House in Nairobi, the President spoke about the roles counties have to play in assisting each other in stemming the pandemic’s spread.
Although all counties were recipients of the Sh47 billion grant provided by the government to assist in the Covid-19 fight, not all possess the same technical capabilities. This is most evident in the realm of testing, where certain counties do not have the ability to meet the World Health Organisation’s recommended testing threshold. Respecting the call for nationwide cross-county collaboration, counties with a lesser capacity were assisted by those with more extensive testing facilities. Similarly, counties with under-trained medical personnel sent the relevant staff for the much-needed training in other counties, whose capabilities were more advanced. Such was the case in Isiolo County, where more than 1,000 health workers and community health volunteers, many from other counties, were trained.
Collaboration has been encouraged by the message of being a brother’s keeper. Similar cooperation has unfortunately not been evident in other places.
In the US, concerns over the spread of the virus has pinned state against state in their frantic searches for personal protective equipment. A governor described the internal competition between states as a “wild west” saying, “I am willing to pay whatever it takes to protect the people of Kentucky to the maximum extent that we can”.
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Kenya’s two-tier governance system has played an important role in the successful handling of the crisis. Cross-county cooperation is indeed important in handling the crisis. However, every county has its own needs, which can best be understood and addressed through local governance structures.
With each and every county under the leadership of a governor as well as a county commissioner, national governance structures can easily address gaps between county needs and their existing capabilities.
This cooperation was evident in Mombasa, where Governor Ali Hassan Joho played a central role in ensuring that his county’s unique needs were met. Maintaining citizens’ everyday life in Mombasa, for example, required continuing the running of the Likoni Ferry, which serves in excess of 300,000 passengers a day. Working with local county commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo, along with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry enabled the quick installation of disinfectant sprayers that allowed for the continued operation of the ferry service. Such inter-county cooperation alongside working with the national government is the only way we will successfully overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Pope John Paul II said: “No one is excluded from contributing to the good of all”. That has never been more evident than it is today, where the support being provided by counties to each other is directly saving lives. Continuing to do so, under the guidance and support of the national government, will help us overcome the greatest modern challenge to humanity.
-The writer is a communication practitioner
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