PHILIP ETALE: My inbox is full of messages from desperate Kenyans, but COVID-19 cases rise every day. What should Mr President do?

For the past two or so months, I have been receiving text messages on my phone, Facebook messenger and WhatsApp from different people across the country. The messages have been massive and all of them, heartbreaking.

It is about pain Kenyans, especially young people are going through during this Covid-19 period. The last two months have not been so good for many people especially those whose places of employment were affected by the partial lockdown and the regulations put in place by the government to help stop the spread of the virus, including cessation of movement to and from the capital city.

The media fraternity is one such sector of the economy which has suffered severe effects of Coronavirus. The industry has seen many people lose their jobs, hence sending them into the cold. Life without a source of livelihood is like stale food; you can’t even swallow it.

However, there are millions of Kenyans out there who have been directly affected by the effects of the virus. And they are suffering. They are crying. They are feeling the heat. They are in a state of suspended animation.

People are going without food, they are unable to pay rent and other bills and worst of all, those who want to move out of Nairobi for their rural homes to cut costs of expenditure, cannot do so because of the order on cessation of movement the President gave at the beginning of the pandemic.

It is worth noting that people in some parts of the country are hostile to anyone arriving in the village from Nairobi because they fear being infected by the virus because they have been made to believe that Nairobi is the epicentre of Coronavirus in Kenya.

One lady sent me a long text on my Facebook messenger. It was chilling and it sent shivers in my vertebrae. This was her message to me; “Phil leave media houses alone, there is another sector called ‘the lending industry’. Microfinance is just a hell. We are fired even via SMS. Like, imagine being forced to be appraised for the months of March, April, and June at a time when work was low and then, later on, fired on non-performance. For God’s sake were staff responsible for Corona?” she posed the question. Her message went on, “Sending a pregnant woman on unpaid leave ati because amezaa time ya Corona, yet she has worked for more than two years for the company shocked us. It was hectic for the lady she literally broke down in office”.

Her parting shot was this; “Mimi nakuajiriwa is a NO for now. I am praying to God nipate capital nimalizane na employment kabisa”.

Another young man told me of how he was sacked a month after he had returned home from burying his father. He told me of how he struggled to travel back to the City because of the cessation of movement order by the President. He says, due to the nature of his job, he buried his father and left for Nairobi the following day. On arrival, his employer began treating him badly and ended up being laid off, of course, effects of Covid-19 being the reason.

Another one was pleading for anything to buy food for his family. He told me that his wife died last year leaving him with two children aged two and five. He lost his job in April this year when effects of Covid-19 became tough on the country’s economy. Being the only child of his late parents, he has no one to run to. He is suffering and even told me that he has reached a point of no return.

I don’t know him, but I rang him and sent him just something small that I could afford and promised to check on him in the coming days.

My inbox is filled with these messages. It is sad that majority of Kenyans are suffering unnoticed. Some are giving up on life. We need each other alive.

However, the increasing numbers of Coronavirus infections in Kenya as announced by the Ministry of Health every day is worrying. This is causing anxiety among Kenyans who are now left guessing whether or not the President is going to open up the country at the expiry of the 30 days.

The economy can only grow when there is active involvement of people in every sector. But as things stand now, and with the continued cessation of movement of people coupled with the dusk to dawn curfew, many people will continue hurting and the economy will suffer the most.

Something needs to be done to save Kenyans from the effects of this deadly virus.


The writer is the Director of Communications of the ODM Party.

Twitter: @Etalephilip