Kenya: Porous Borders Stifle Mandera's Efforts to Curb COVID-19

With the porous Somalia border to the east and Ethiopia to the north, Mandera County is struggling to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Several people who tested positive have been traced to Somalia, worrying security agencies and county administrators.

In a move to address the challenge, Mandera North and Mandera East sub-counties were pooled together and are now being served by Mandera County Referral Hospital located in Mandera East.

The County Multiagency Task Force on Covid-19, co-chaired by County Commissioner Onesmus Kyatha and Deputy Governor Mohamed Arai, clustered the sub-counties and created other response teams.

"We have increased security surveillance along the border in the wake of Covid-19, and at the moment there is no crossing to either country," Mr Kyatha said.

Other hotspots include Damasa in Lafey Constituency, Elwak in Mandera South and Dandu in Mandera West.

Mr Kyatha said police were on the lookout and special forces had been deployed after President Uhuru Kenyatta closed the Kenya-Somalia border.

Lafey and Mandera South sub-counties were merged and a quarantine facility identified at Elwak Referral Hospital, while Banisa and Mandera West are served by Takaba Sub-County Headquarters buildings.

MOBILISING RESOURCES

There is a 14-bed isolation ward at Mandera County referral Hospital, while a 64-bed rehabilitation centre in the town was turned into an isolation ward.

Another 47-bed isolation centre at Kamor Heath Centre in Mandera East has also been refurbished.

Mr Arai said Mandera County Referral Hospital remains the county's main isolation centre in the entire county, with a population of 867,457.

"We have assigned three ambulances to pick up confirmed cases from all our quarantine facilities and take them to Mandera Referral Hospital for management purposes," Mr Arai said,

Mandera has hired private facilities, including hotels and lodges, homes and a private school, to serve as quarantine facilities and to host health workers in the front line.

County Health executive Mohamud Adan Mohamed said surveillance teams had been stationed at entry points along the borders with Somalia and Ethiopia.

SAFETY PRECAUTION

The national government also supplied and distributed masks and sanitisers. "The national government is really supplementing the county government's efforts and has provided a plane for transporting samples to Nairobi for testing. We have also engaged 642 youths under the Kazi Mtaani project to help with sanitisation," Mr Kyatha said, adding that it also provided personal protection equipment, including 26,200 masks and ventilators.

Mandera County Assembly approved a Sh228 million supplementary budget on May 4 to help fight the pandemic and formed an ad hoc committee to monitor the use of the funds.

"We have public schools within Lafey, but what we hired there is a portion of what has been turned into a school, though it remains a lodge," he said.

County health minister Mohamud Adan Mohamed said all frontline health workers are given accommodation to limit interaction with the community. said Mr Mohamed.

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