Jubilee’s Handling of the Cholera Outbreak – Election Year Politicking, Malice or Incompetence?
By Dorcas Sarkozy
During the height of the Ebola crisis in 2014, African leaders deftly avoided discussing the impact of corruption, incompetence and poor governance on their ability to contain the disease.
Part of the reason leaders in countries in the “hot zone” of the disease — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — avoided the issue was because it focused international spotlight on how demonstrably ill-prepared they were to contain the pandemic.
Then-Cabinet Secretary for Health James Wainaina Macharia penned an article titled “How Nigeria beat Ebola: Key lessons for Kenya as told by CS James Macharia” to catalogue how Nigeria had successfully contained and beaten back the outbreak and what Kenya could learn from Nigeria’s experience. The former banker offered that Nigeria had:
– Identified AND acknowledged the outbreak very early on,
– Not politicize the outbreak i.e. allowed investigators to do their work unimpeded,
– The infrastructure fully equipped and ready for use,
– Actively worked with ALL local stake holders and
– Luck on its side!
Fast-forward to 2017 and Kenya is now dealing with an outbreak of cholera and like the outbreak of Ebola, it is the perfect storm of incompetence, corruption, impunity and for good measure, election year politicking!
One outbreak was traced to the Weston Hotel where doctors were attending a science conference. The hotel is linked to the Deputy President William Ruto who is demonstrably corrupt and known to act with impunity. It doesn’t surprise anyone that there were efforts to suppress news of the outbreak within the hotel.
In another outbreak of the disease, the Cabinet Secretaries for National Treasury and Industrialization Henry Rotich and Adnan Mohammed were stricken after eating catered food at a trade fair held at the Kenyatta International Conference Center (KICC).
And in May, three people died after eating at a wedding in tony Karen just outside Nairobi.
Since May, 336 cases of the disease have been reported with Mathare, Huuruma and Mukuru Kwa Ruben being the most affected areas – this according to The Star newspaper.
Surprisingly, given the highly contagious nature of the food and water-borne disease, one would expect the equally-crowded areas of Kibera, Korogocho, Mukuru kwa Njenga, Sinai, Kwa Reuben etc. to be just as affected by the outbreak as the afore-mentioned slums – all areas with little to no structured sanitation including open sewers, little to no plumbing and foods cooked under some very suspicious and unregulated conditions.
On the other hand, the high-profile instances (Weston Hotel, KICC & Karen) all occurred in three distinct spatially-segregated geographic “ground zeros” – in organized (catered) and presumably sanitary settings.
Not to belabor the point, but my SO is an engineer and consistently reminds me that all investigations follow predictable methodologies AND identify/focus three basic components:
To wit, caterers prepared and served the food at the wedding in Karen, the conference at the Weston Hotel and the trade fair at the conference center.
Identifying the possible source/s of the outbreak/s in these instances would be comparatively easy compared to identifying the possible source/s of the outbreak/s in Mathare, Huuruma and Mukuru Kwa Ruben.
Why the Jubilee government would deny that the outbreak at the Weston Hotel was cholera – two months into the outbreak – speaks to the three elements of the perfect storm alluded to at the beginning: Corruption, Impunity and Election Year politics.
The blanket cancellation of medical certificates of all food handlers is a knee-jerk and illogical reaction that speaks to incompetence and flailing.
The decision not only metes out collective punishment to those in the food industry with nothing to do with the outbreak, it creates panic within an industry that is vital to the country’s economy.
The current cholera outbreak, like the ongoing violence in Laikipia and elsewhere, is yet another example of a Jubilee government that has been demonstrably corrupt, incompetent and poorly led.