“Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you” KJV Isaiah 35: 3-4
Fellow Kenyans, We send you Easter greetings, Year 2019, as we celebrate the victory of our Lord Jesus, earned through his sacrificial giving of his life for the fallen worldly systems. The world is in a state of uncertainty and anxiety over the COVID 19 Pandemic, with major disruption of our lives. We are not able to congregate in our Churches to celebrate the risen Christ, as we have done over the years. This Easter period however, provides with us with opportunity to reflect on the challenges facing our Nation, our Continent, and the World as a whole.
Please join me in appreciating the ongoing efforts by National and County governments to contain the spread of corona virus crisis in the country. The COVID-19 outbreak in Kenya is gradually getting out of control, spreading quickly- according to the reported increase of daily caseloads. We appreciate the continued effort by the Government in controlling the spread of the virus. We urge every person resident in Kenya to support these Government efforts, through personal initiative as instructed by the health authorities.
We also urge all organizations throughout Kenya, to support these Government initiatives. Churches and other Faith-based agencies, have a special responsibility at this challenging time, in caring for those affected by this pandemic in various ways (Matt. 25: 35-40).
2. OUR FAITH
Faith is tested when we are in crisis. As believers, when you are sinking the best question to ask is “where is your faith?” This COVID-19 pandemic has tested our faith uniquely. The world is in a major crisis never witnessed before. This pandemic reminds us that ultimately the world is not our home. Ultimately, we are not in charge but we can boldly and gladly say that God is. We are simply agents of God’s authority and power. There is always temptation to give up hope and abandon our faith. But we encourage you to remain hopeful- though it is not easy for all of us. There is hope for a better future, as we learn from the lessons and the teachings from this pandemic. We are reminded and encouraged to ultimately trust in God rather than in any other power or authority (Proverbs 3: 5-6).
3. THE ROLE OF CHURCH HEALTH FACILITIES
Do join me in appreciating the quiet role being played by the majority of our service providers in our Church health facilities - who operate in very challenging situations. They have remained faithful in keenly observing and complying with what the government is doing in this very specialized work of responding to the pandemic. Indeed, many of our health workers are serving among communities where access to health care is limited, and COVID-19 testing kits have so far remained limited. In crowded areas social distancing is hardly achievable.
We now call upon the Government, at the National and County levels; Private and Mission Hospitals to heed the plight of the health workers who are in the core of response to this Pandemic. Additional Government support should include better equipment, supplies and risk allowances among others.
We are keenly aware of the fact that the Private sector health units are consulting with government authorities to work out a joint strategy for controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In addition, we believe there is room for the relevant government authorities to undertake a rapid mapping process of the existing facilities managed by faith based Institutions in each county, in view of the high chances of wider spread of the COVID-19 virus into the rural communities. Home care is an option that we should start preparing particularly by church institutions.
Such mapping should establish current capacity and resource gaps of these heath facilities in terms of staff, equipment, materials, services and facilities. In addition, the mapping should include local public institutions adjacent to these heath facilities, which could be temporarily converted into Quarantine centres. Access to identified institutions should be improved, in addition to requisite resources.
4. STRENGTHEN BORDER CONTROLS
In view of many border control points, we can be very vulnerable - even with our own strict discipline within the Country. In order to minimise the Impact of possible spread from illegal visitors, it is to strengthen Border controls to stop any illegal entries.
5. FOOD SECURITY
We appreciate the efforts by both National and County Governments to ensure that the vulnerable are supported with adequate food supplies. It is essential that we take care to ensure strategic food stocks in food insecure Counties. In view of the on going restriction of movement in and out of some of the cities/ regions, this should be done selectively, taking account of the unique context of Kenya. Specifically, it is to ensure availability of adequate quantities of Maize and other cereals in NCB stores located in food insecure Counties like Turkana, Mandera, Marsabit, Wajir among others.
6. CHECK ON PRICING
In order to protect many of our people who are yet to access the basic sanitation materials, we urge the Government to intensify the implementation of clear guidelines.
7. VERIFY SOURCE OF INFORMATION:
Please seek information only from trusted sources so that you can take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause panic and worry. Get the facts; not rumours
8. FAMILY SUPPORT:
As advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and if possible, stay connected with your loved ones, including through digital methods, is one way to maintain contact. Check on your colleagues, your manager or other trusted persons for social support – your colleagues may be having similar experiences to you.
We encourage counselling support for each other.
9. USE CIVIL LANGUAGE:
As already envisaged by the WHO, many of us are already stressed by having been forced to stay home for long. The curfew and lock down in some of our counties, though necessary is already taking its toll on many. It is important that we check our language and exercise civility in in social media. We wish to remind you not to refer to people with the disease as “COVID-19 cases”, “victims” “COVID-19 families” or “the diseased”. They are “people who have COVID-19”, “people who are being treated for COVID-19”, or “people who are recovering from COVID-19”, and after recovering from COVID-19 their life will go on with their jobs, families and loved ones.
10. SOCIAL SAFETY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
We commend the efforts by both National and County governments to reach the very needy in our country. The allocation of recovery from corrupt money, the voluntary reduction of salary as led by the President, the foregoing of travel allowance by the civil service, among other already agreed actions, will indeed release the needed funding for the envisaged social support. However, a lot more can still be done. There is need for bottom up approach to involve the citizens in suggesting how they could be supported. The worrisome economic implications of lost jobs -especially amongst the non-skilled and slum workers - is leaving many Kenyans hungry every day.
The World Bank and EACC have donated funds to support the poor. A credible identification of beneficiaries and reporting procedure is essential.
11. ACCESS TO PREVENTIVE EQUIPMENT
Availability of the equipment and tools to prevent the spread of the virus should be at the lowest cost possible. We recommend speeding up the process of availing face masks to the public, and avoid of cheap substandard ones that will not be helpful The government promised face masks; its time the government fulfilled its promise toward prevention of the spread of the virus.
12. THE QUARANTINE, CURFEW AND LOCK-IN
We commend the government for the quick decision to restrict Nairobi Metropolitan Area with great wisdom and tact. The Police brutality was quite unfortunate and we do appreciate the President’s apologies for the mishandling of Kenyans by the police at the beginning of the curfew in various parts of the country. We now urge Kenyans to seriously adhere to the measures as instructed by the government, so that we do our best to reduce the rate of infection. At the same time we pray that God get us out of this pandemic quickly, so that we get back to normalcy.
13. EDUCATION SYSTEM AND EXAMINATION
We do appreciate the innovative manner in which the Ministry of Education has encouraged virtual learning even during this time of great uncertainty. Following the closure of all education institutions three weeks ago, there is growing anxiety among leaners, parents and stakeholders, wondering when these institutions will re-open. We do appreciate the difficulty, at the moment, for the government to specify when the institutions will re-open and when examinations will begin.
Finally, we emphasize what we are learning from those who have been through this COVID-19 battle. Indeed we can only ignore history at our own peril. We shall succeed if we operate on the principle of “shoring up confidence, strengthening unity, ensuring science-based control and treatment and imposing targeted measures. We have mobilized the whole nation, set up collective control and treatment mechanisms and acted with openness and transparency. What we fought was a people’s war against the outbreak. We have put up a strenuous struggle and made tremendous sacrifices”
In conclusion, we pray for those infected and affected by COVID 19. We send condolences to the families who have lost their dear ones to the virus. We urge all to adhere to guidelines and directives given towards prevention of the pandemic. Let us support those who are currently facing food shortages across the country. We urge Kenyans to remember Christ died for us as sign of sacrifice. As a Nation we should not lose hope. Rather, we should continue to pray that this pandemic will come to pass.
May God bless you, God bless Kenya,
Signed on this date 10th April 2020,
The Most Rev. Dr. Jackson Ole Sapit
The Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Bishop of All Saints’ Cathedral Diocese and Bishop in Ordinary of the Defence Forces