The COVID-19 outbreak has transformed life. We can feel the economic and health impacts in Kenya, the UK and across the globe. Good people are working hard to support their communities – including those with day jobs who now have little income. Others are shamelessly trying to exploit the situation. Many of us with office jobs have been able to work from home, where we have become adept at conference calls, trying to keep a routine and balancing the demands of childcare and exerting extreme willpower not to snack on unhealthy foods.
It has been decades since we have faced a peacetime challenge like COVID-19. The UK stands with Kenya as one of our strongest partners. By working together, we will reduce the impact of the virus for both our nations – saving lives, protecting development gains, supporting the economy and helping Kenya bounce back quickly so those most in need reap the benefits. The G20’s decision on 15 April to freeze debt payments has given 76 economies some breathing space – including some of Kenya’s debt.
On 12 April, the UK announced a global support package of KES26 billion to UK charities and international organisations to slow infections and save lives globally, including in Kenya. The total amount of UKaid committed to the global fight against COVID-19 is KES97 billion, making the UK one of the biggest donors to the international response. An equally distributed vaccine, will be the best defence.
In Kenya itself, leaders, businesses and communities are leading the way to minimise the economic and social shocks of this public health emergency. The government has taken quick and decisive action, including through early social distancing and movement restrictions.
Our historic support in Kenya – such as the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre – has been at the heart of Kenya’s COVID-19 response. We’re redirecting our existing support to tackle the virus – including through multimedia platform Shujaaz, which informs youth heroes in Kenya how to protect their families, tackle false narratives and to help slow the spread. We are also working with UNICEF to provide nutrition and water and sanitation assistance.
The UK already supports the most vulnerable people in Kenya, including the 16 million living in poverty, especially women and people living with disabilities. Best practice development work enables vulnerable people to provide for themselves and their families. Where markets work, cash transfers provide better value for money than in-kind assistance like food, whilst maintaining dignity. In the context of COVID-19, they offer potential to help young Kenyans whose jobs and income have suffered.
Whilst the direct impact of COVID-19 is growing, it is important that other essential health services continue. For example, many Kenyans need immunisation, as well as maternal and newborn healthcare. We cannot let preventable deaths happen due to pressures on the health system.
Surviving a pandemic needs economic stability too. So it is also important that Kenya remains a regional powerhouse: the gateway to East Africa and beyond. Supporting global supply chains – keeping airlines going, freight routes open – is all helping Kenya’s economy. That is why the UK is keeping goods flowing in and out of the country, which helps Kenyan businesses (and thus the wider economy). Through TradeMark East Africa’s Safe Trade Emergency Facility, the UK and partners will support hygiene measures and technology to ensure supplies, including food and medicines, can flow through borders and ports.
British Businesses are some of the top tax contributors in Kenya, providing jobs ranging from horticulture to security to financial services. During the outbreak, these businesses continue to deliver for the Kenyan people and economy – keeping jobs safe, supporting workers and upholding good business practices. Transparency and accountability of how money is spent are even more important in times of crisis – not less.
Despite the challenges this pandemic presents, this week, Flamingo Horticulture flew 160 tonnes of produce into my UK hometown of Doncaster. Brits still see Kenyan tea, flowers and vegetables on the shelves of big UK supermarkets. We are working hard so this trade continues and revenue comes to Kenya.
Partnership includes British companies joining the collective response in Kenya. East Africa Breweries Ltd. is using its state-of-the-art brewery in Kisumu to make 135,000 litres of hand sanitiser for the most vulnerable. Azuri are using their off-grid solar energy to enable Kenyan children across the nation to access education broadcast by the Kenyan government.
We’ve worked together to tackle shared threats before, and will continue to do so in the face of COVID-19. Twaweza!
Jane Marriott, British High Commissioner to Kenya