The COVID-19 Pandemic is not only a health crisis but also continues to affect the livelihoods of majority of Kenyans, a new report by the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights (KNHCR).
The report titled Nationwide Survey on Huma Rights for Vulnerable Groups during the COVID-19 pandemic paints a grim picture of lack of access to quality healthcare, food security, lack the opportunity to continue learning and lack of access to justice.
“While it is clear that health provision is critical, it is noted that individual health and the health sector, in general, have been adversely affected by the pandemic. There is limited access to medical services and inadequate public health facilities,” the findings of the report states in part.
The report launched by the Commission’s Chief Executive Dr Benard Mogesa shows that lack of access to medical care has not only affected the vulnerable groups but all Kenyans in general.
According to the report, COVID-19 survivors continue to bear the brunt of stigmatization and discrimination which has been occasioned by myths and stereotypes that have overtime engulfed the society.
The report further adds that due to unaffordability, unavailability and inaccessibility in some instance, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities continue to be consumed at constrained levels in the society.
“This has led to worrying personal hygiene trends as well inadequate adherence to Government directives requiring frequent hand washing in order to limit and avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The vulnerable in the society have been significantly denied their basic right to shelter especially during the COVID-19 period,” reads the report in part.
The nationwide survey also revealed that food security is still an issue especially for the vulnerable groups in Kenya which has been mirrored by their lack of adequate food supply.
In addition, the labour and social security sector has been characterized by increased unemployment as a result of slowdown in activities.
Although the government stepped up its efforts in an attempt to cushion the sector and employees to be specific from the harsh economic environment incentives such as tax reductions was not adequate for the majority of the jobless Kenyans.
The report on the survey further revealed that access to Justice was guaranteed by the courts of law and that the judiciary has embraced technology in championing key digitization initiatives such as virtual court proceedings.
“This has led to increased access to justice. However, it goes without saying that inadequate court procedures such as; limited face-to-face proceedings has on the other hand led to the denial of access to justice for some Kenyans especially the vulnerable,” the report reads.
Millions of school-going children were also affected during the pandemic which adversely affected learning activities.
“The education sector has been adversely affected by the pandemic. Learning in both the public and private institutions had to be halted in order to curb the spread of the virus. While some learners have been able to continue learning through online classes and radio/TV programs, others have resulted to unaided homeschooling. A majority of the vulnerable learners lack the opportunity to continue learning,” the report reads in parts.
Dr Mogesa while launching the release of the report said that KNCHR developed a monitoring framework to guide all its operations related to COVID-19 with thematic areas of concern including Health Facilities and Services, Water & Sanitation, Housing, Food, Labour and Social Security, Access to Justice, Media and Access to Information, Detention Facilities and Other holding Facilities and Vulnerable Groups.
The KNCHR Commissioned Infotrak Research and Consulting to undertake a thematic survey on the rights of vulnerable groups during the pandemic.
The survey used desktop research, qualitative and quantitative researches involving 2,430 interviews with members of the public, 30 key informant interviews drawn from critical stakeholders and experts and focused group discussions with 5 categories of Vulnerable Groups, with the sample distribution spread in 31 Counties.
“Unemployment, high cost of living and access to healthcare, poor infrastructure, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, quality of education and food security are the key issues of concern among Kenyans,” said Mogesa.
And now the commission recommends that there is need for a multi-stakeholder involving both the private and the public sector to address the issue of unemployment, which has been occasioned by the protracted COVID-19 pandemic period.
In addition, it is important for the government to support the ease of conducting business in the country especially during this pandemic to provide more employment opportunities.
“It is critical for key stakeholders in the health sector to strategically come up with key messaging around COVID-19 and the stereotypes around it to protect the COVID-19 survivors and their loved ones from being ostracized. This will ensure that there is swifter recovery and fewer mental health issues linked to discrimination and stigmatization,” the report recommends.
And apart from that, the report further recommends that there should be access to Food which is pertinent to the survival of human beings and that food relief be made a priority to the vulnerable groups in the country, adding that such a move will ensure livelihood sustenance.
On access to justice, the commission in its report recommended that the judiciary should be facilitated to improve the turnaround times in resolving cases and in building the capacity to address the current back log and the extended court matters, adding that requisite systems needs to be established by relevant stakeholders and proper campaigns done to ensure awareness of the same among the vulnerable groups.
“The Commission will continue with its monitoring work and that the fight against COVID-19 will not be won without collective efforts by the State and the citizens at large.
KNCHR lauded the media for its continued efforts of sharing critical information with the masses.