23 MARCH 2020
The Kenya Fight Inequality Alliance (FIA) is part of the global Fight Inequality Alliance of social movements, trade unions, and non-governmental organizations. Kenya FIA members – women’s & youth groups, rural & urban poor, activists & artists, human rights organizations & defenders – appreciate the enormous challenges faced by the Government of Kenya because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It is also cognizant of how crucial it is to get the response right instead of continuing with business as usual, in which case a rethinking of the socio-economic configuration that has favoured the 1% at the expense of normal citizens. Covid-19 has to be attended to in Kenya and there is no foreign escape for treatment calling for a complete rethinking of the social strata and distribution of resources.
In that regard, we call first on the government of Kenya to act in accordance with human rights standards in their response to COVID-19. Any response must uphold the principles of non-discrimination and equality and ensure that the people most affected by inequality – women, children, persons living with disabilities, people with compromised immunity and those living in informal settlements, remote, and vulnerable areas – are protected. It is important that the government employ intersectional and multi-stakeholder approaches to respond and prevent further exploitation and abuse.
At this time, we highlight the following issues, which were also part of the Usawa Demands  delivered by Kenya FIA to the Office of the President on 17 January 2020:
1. Public services – health, mental health & water
a. In light of the pandemic, the government should direct all healthcare institutions, public and private, to provide quality healthcare to all regardless of insurance, economic, and/or immigration status and ability to pay. We appreciate that these facilities will likely come under great stress, but care must be prioritized by individual seriousness and risk to the community at large.
b. The government must equip county referral hospitals with the necessary facilities to respond, test, and treat COVID-19 cases. This should include ambulances to evacuate suspected cases from communities.
c. Government should be prepared to recruit retired healthcare workers and unemployed trained healthcare personnel, as well as identifying candidates to be trained for healthcare assistance should conditions intensify, both at healthcare institutions and in communities. The stress on healthcare workers themselves must be recognized and accommodated with assistance to their families.
d. Government should also prioritize the distribution of resources and care to the impoverished and the most vulnerable such as the sick and the elderly.
e. Emergency water distribution points in communities with no access to water, such as informal settlements in Nairobi, should be set up immediately to facilitate hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.
f. Providers and government should ensure the provision of mental health services in COVID-19 responses and their availability to those in quarantine, isolation and those hospitalized.
g. Providers and government should adapt and implement best-practice response as recommended by the World Health Organization while learning from countries that are succeeding in combating the pandemic.
2. Economic response, debt & taxation
We demand that the government:
a. Adopt social protection measures including basic income guarantees and cash transfers for vulnerable populations, especially daily wage earners and the impoverished in urban and rural areas.
b. Zero-rate VAT on essential goods and regulate prices of essential goods and services, including transport charges.
c. Declare unilateral loan relief (postponing payments) for all and not condition on it to individual circumstances or ability to negotiate.
d. Prioritize economic relief for people instead of bailouts for businesses. Kenya should work with other governments, especially in Africa, to declare a moratorium on sovereign debt payments to all creditors.
e. Suspend payment of rent, mortgages and loans for small businesses and homes.
3. Social Response
We urge that government recognize:
a. Intimate partner violence as an added complication in the midst of the pandemic that requires ‘shelter in place’ quarantine – homes are often dangerous spaces for victims of domestic violence.
b. The government must also ensure that information is made available and accessible to all through sign language, closed captions, as well as in vernacular languages.
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Notes to the editor:
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