“Kenya to be specific.” Nancy Chepkemboi’s Facebook page, March 28, 2020. I admit I have done this myself.

Current count in Kenya as of Thursday, April 2: 110 confirmed cases, 3 death, 2 serious critical, and 4 recovered. There were 22 more confirmed cases on Wednesday and 29 more on Thursday. The government decided to test all the 2000+ people in quarantine and self-isolation including those who showed no symptoms. About half of those have received their test results, leading to the spike in the number of cases. All those who tested positive are now in quarantine.

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The world news these days is filled with information about coronavirus. Nonetheless very little of this reporting covers sub-Saharan Africa which so far has done much better than other continents in dealing with the virus. In order to help fill this void, I plan on continuing to report on developments in Kenya and other Sub-Saharan African countries.

The little reporting on sub-Saharan Africa that I have seen has always been extremely alarmists. For example, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres says (see here) he fears “without a massive mobilization we will have millions and millions of people contaminated [in Africa], which means millions of deaths.” Africa has always had a negative image in the West. It is backward, uneducated, superstitious, “primitive”, and underdeveloped. As a result Westerns are not willing to consider that Africa may well do much better than the disastrous responses in the United States, Italy, Spain, and much of the rest of Europe. Their unstated assumption is that Africa will do even worse as this is needed to continue to confirm the negative image of Africa. Consider this Letter to the Editor in the Tuesday, March 31, edition of the Daily Nation:

Media reports on Africa demeaning continent.

Sadly, Western media have not discarded the “dark continent” tag when talking about Africa’s preparedness for Covid-19. They lump African countries together as poor with non-existent medical facilities yet it is the West that has cannibalized its medical personnel. For instance, the US recently issued 50,000 green cards to woo African nurses. Furthermore, while the West ignored Covid-19 warnings, African leaders took action.

Note that in the title of this Report, I say “Kenyan’s” rather than “Kenya’s” response. While much reporting concerns the physical aspects of the crisis – how many test kits, masks, and ventilators, number of ICU beds, and so on – the basic determination will be how seriously Kenyans themselves take to the necessary restrictions needed to contain the spread of the virus.

While in the United States, some churches are still in session, in Kenya all church services have been banned. While in the United States, the college students flock to the beaches as if nothing is happening, Kenya closed its beaches weeks ago. While the US still does not have enough tests to test non-symptomatic cases, Kenya is testing all the 2000+ people currently in isolation at day 8 and again at day 14. One of the most recent cases was a non-symptomatic person in isolation. She was quickly moved to a quarantine facility. On Wednesday when results of some of these tests came back, 21 out of the 22 new cases were from people who were already in isolation due to tracking because they had interacted with a prior positive individual.

Chinese tycoon Jack Ma via the Alibaba Foundation has already delivered 100,000 face masks, 20,000 coronavirus test kits and protective suits to Kenya. This is Kenya’s part of the distribution by the Alibaba Foundation of 1.1 million testing kits, 6 million masks, and 60,000 medical use protective suits and face shields to all 54 African countries. It is hard not to write here, “Where are American tycoons ABC, XYZ, or MNO in helping Africa in this crisis?”

Elderly people who catch coronavirus are much more likely to die from the disease. Due to a much higher birth rate in the past, Kenya has fewer elderly people as a percentage of the population than countries with a much lower birth rate. I looked up the statistics for the percentage of the population over 65 years old:

Italy                 22.08%

United States    16.85%

Kenya                3.07%

With the United States having 5.5 times the percentage of elderly people and Italy having 7.2 times the percentage of elderly people as Kenya, the death rate due to the disease is going to be substantial lower.

This is a clever cartoon. The words on front of the bus mean “we’re going in Burundi also.” On Tuesday, Burundi reported its first two cases of coronavirus, both by people who flew in from Rwanda and Dubai before international flights were banned and were under quarantine in a hotel. Hopefully this will keep the virus from spreading in Burundi.

Here is the current case load in nearby African countries (plus the United States for comparison) as of Thursday, April 3:

Burundi                        3

Ethiopia                      29

Kenya                        110

Rwanda                       82

Somalia                         5

South Sudan                 0

Sudan                            8

Tanzania                      20

Uganda                        45

United States        245,193

Time will tell how successful these countries have been in containing the epidemic, but, as the writer of the letter to the editor above stated, African governments took action. They realize that their health systems are weak and, since they were later than other countries in the date of their original case(s), they have learned from other countries what works and what does not work.

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David Zarembka

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Reports from Kenya: www.davidzarembka.com/

Email: davidzarembka@gmail.com

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