A total of 50 health personnel are being deployed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to 14 counties across Kenya to bolster county-level healthcare systems, an intervention which is part of the UNDP-led Joint UN COVID-19 Response Programme in Kenya. The flagging-off ceremony for the volunteers took place on 1 July 2020 in Kajiado town, Kajiado County, in the presence of key partners from the Government of Kenya, county governments, and the United Nations.
Recruited by UNDP in conjunction with United Nations Volunteers and County Public Service Boards, the 50 health workers will be deployed as UN Volunteers to 14 counties initially identified by the Ministry of Health as vulnerable to the pandemic: Kakamega, Busia, Garissa, Kajiado, Machakos, Kilifi, Kiambu, Taita Taveta, Wajir, Kisumu, Migori, Mandera, Uasin Gishu and Nairobi. The volunteers will take up roles as Clinical Officers, Nursing Officers, Public Health Officers, and Laboratory Technicians; they are qualified medical experts with practicing certificates issued by the appropriate medical practitioners’ boards.
Present at the ceremony were distinguished guests including CAS Hon. Abdul Bahari and PS Charles T. Sunkuli of the Ministry of Devolution and ASALs, Chair of the Council of Governors (CoG) and Governor of Kakamega County H.E. Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Governor of Kajiado County H.E. Joseph Ole Lenku, Governors of the 12 further counties to which volunteers will be deployed, and CEO of CoG Ms. Jacqueline Mogeni.
The United Nations was represented by a delegation led by the UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, which included UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Walid Badawi, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Ms. Mandisa Mashologu and UN Volunteers Regional Manager a.i. Ms. Sarah Anyoti. Speaking at the opening of the ceremony, Mr. Badawi thanked the Governments of Finland, Italy and Sweden for their support to this initiative, and reaffirmed UNDP’s commitment to the national COVID-19 response:
“The socio-economic impact of the crisis threatens not only the lives of Kenyans but Kenya’s hard-fought development progress. UNDP will, therefore, continue supporting the Council of Governors, the County Assemblies Forum, and the national government in designing and implementing interventions that will enable the country respond and recovery from this crisis,” Mr. Badawi said in his remarks.
Speaking at the function, CAS Hon. Bahari said that “the counties were selected due to their proximity to counties experiencing the highest numbers of infections while others are major transit corridors thus are most vulnerable to the disease. He added “that border counties and those with high numbers of infections require strategic interventions to ensure that cross-boundary transmission is curtailed.”
The COVID-19 Response Programme was developed from the UN Joint Devolution Programme after development partners Finland, Italy and Sweden consented to remobilizing USD 3.1 million to respond to the pandemic in Kenya. The COVID-19 Response is being implemented by UNDP, UNICEF and UN Women with UNDP playing the coordination role: interventions enacted through the programme will mitigate both the spread and impact of COVID-19 by increasing capacity of the healthcare system, building the resilience of vulnerable populations, bolstering social protections, and advocating for the rights of women.
As well as the deployment of healthcare professionals, under the COVID-19 Response Programme UNDP will lead a number of interventions including: the development and dissemination of messages based on WHO and Government of Kenya guidance in English, Kiswahili and vernacular through mediums including radio, TV, SMS bulk messages and social media; supporting research by CoG into the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 in the counties; and, to provide technical support around COVID-related medical waste management.
UNDP is helping countries to urgently and effectively respond to COVID-19 as part of our mission to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and build resilience to crisis and shocks. In Kenya, UNDP is undertaking wide ranging interventions to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, such as through support to civil society and provision of medical waste management equipment, and is leading a UN-wide effort to establish the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 – an initiative which will inform future development programming, particularly during the recovery stages of the crisis.