Humanity needs leadership and
solidarity to defeat COVID-19
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two. Since its emergence in Asia late last year, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. Cases are rising daily in Africa the Americas, and Europe.
Countries are racing to slow the spread of the disease by testing and treating patients, carrying out contact tracing, limiting travel, quarantining citizens, and cancelling large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts, and schools.
The pandemic is moving like a wave—one that may yet crash on those least able to cope.
But COVID-19 is much more than a health crisis. By stressing countries like Kenya, the pandemic has the potential to create devastating social, economic and political crises that will leave deep scars.
We are in uncharted territory. Many communities are unrecognizable from even a week ago. Dozens of the world’s greatest cities are deserted as people stay indoors, either by choice or by government order. Across the world, shops, theatres, restaurants and bars are closing.
Every day, people are losing jobs and income, with no way of knowing when normality will return. Small island nations, heavily dependent on tourism, have empty hotels and deserted beaches. The International Labour Organization estimates that 25 million jobs could be lost.
Every country needs to act immediately to prepare, respond, and recover. The UN system in Kenya is supporting the Government through each stage, with a focus on the most vulnerable.
Drawing on our experience with other outbreaks such as Ebola, HIV, SARS, TB and malaria, as well as our long history of working with the private and public sector, UNDP will help countries to urgently and effectively respond to COVID-19 as part of its mission to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and build resilience to crises and shocks.
“We are already hard at work, together with our UN family and other partners, on three immediate priorities: supporting the health response including the procurement and supply of essential health products, under WHO’s leadership, strengthening crisis management and response, and addressing critical social and economic impacts.” UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner
Responding with people at the centre
Kenya is also facing numerous development challenges, from the ongoing locust invasion to persistent youth unemployment, among others. The Coronavirus pandemic puts additional burden on the Government and people of Kenya. It is not just a public health issue, it is a development issue already affecting the entire socioeconomic spectrum of the country.
As the crisis impacts on every aspect of Kenya's society today, the effects will continue to be felt long after the crisis is over. Its impact on the socioeconomic activities in the country will expose already vulnerable and marginalised communities to more suffering. The economic fallout in the country is likely to be severe and long-lasting, consequently undermining the country's prospects of achieving its long-term development aspirations, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Development challenges are huge in Kenya - especially in frontier counties of the northern region (Garissa, Isiolo, Lamu, Mandera, Marsabit, Tana River and Wajir) which have for a long time been economically marginalized, suffered fragility, instability, poverty and insecurity. Safeguarding these regions against the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and ensuring that recent development gains are not reversed is critical. Other regions are also facing their own unique challenges - from inequality to youth unemployment. UNDP’s catalytic investment in the country will continue to focus on interventions that will strengthen coordination and improve efficiency in the delivery of public services, strengthening public trust in national institutions and helping local authorities put in place measure that prepare them for future crises.
Working within the United Nations Country Team in Kenya and supporting the COVID-19 National Task is ensuring that all the needed support from different stakeholders is well coordinated and that the investment being made in responding to this challenge is efficiently appropriated.
Crisis like this have potential to trigger actions that violate human rights, cause a breakdown in law and order and induce panic among populations. Continuous engagement with and support to national and county governments is critical in ensuring that this does not happen. Every effort must be put in place, including leveraging digital tools to ensure people's rights are protected, public services are delivered and trust is strengethened between people and their respective government authorities.
Our support to the Government of Kenya will also help ensure that the response is comprehensive as well as equitable and inclusive, so that no one is left out and the country can continue to make progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).