Poverty is dangerous. Poverty is the worst disease on earth. It is a gateway to all other diseases in terms of their ability to impact heavily to human race. Poverty is a weak link to many adverse things in human life. When the Covid-19 pandemic had its first confirmed and reported cases in Kenya my own worries was first its potential to spread very fast in event it landed in the highly populated areas in informal settlements such as Kibera,Mathare and the various areas going by the names of Mukuru (such as Mukuru kwa Njenga, Mukuru kwa Reuben etc) . The high concentration of those living in slum areas makes it easier for the spread.
At the same time even though not everyone who uses our public transport is poor, the potential spread by public transport is immense. Moreover, though there were indications that a lockdown say for two weeks was looking the way out, the challenge of so many people who rely on day to day wages and temporary jobs was a red flag. In a country where we have numerous food risks this looked like a risky attempt. One has to look at the levels of income and poverty levels to appreciate some of these decisions can be counterproductive or makes it very hard to make them.
Poverty is dangerous. Poverty dehumanises people and the mere fact that thereby are so many people who have to go to work almost each and every day for their families to feed that day or have no or low savings that can ensure survival for a few more days shows the vulnerability we have as a country. This is also an indicator of the kind of social life and even how political choices are made. Political choices are made by who can fulfill the moment needs. That is why populist and those who avail handouts become so popular. So then has not to look for answers why concerns of having so many professionals or people who have capacity to help the country navigate to higher levels of development end up shunning politics all together.
There is too much poverty that the survival for the day is the key considerations for the many. So telling the public to voters on the lofty development agenda becomes quite in the backburner. That is why many politicians when under challenge or when under pressure result to the emotions of s mediate survival like putting the food on the table; unfortunately this is also a challenge in the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic.
Already cases of Covid -19 are rising fast informal settlements area in Nairobi such as Kibera and Mathare. Obviously if they hit these areas which also acts as reservoir for all manner of labour workers in many industries and homes in Nairobi makes it a warning shot that the infections are bound to rise everywhere in a matter of time. It makes it harder for policy makers and health professionals battling the pandemic to devise the mechanisms to halt the spread.
It’s part of the clearest sign that poverty is a disease that must be fought with all might. Poverty is a harbinger for global problems as it makes it easier for problems or maladies to spread. Whether you consider ills like terrorism and various pestilences as is coronavirus, poverty is a facilitator. One may be tempted to argue that the most affected by Coronavirus-Covid 19 – mess are actually the rich and the fact that Africa, the poorest continent is the least affected so far by the pandemic. This should not comfort poor Africa.
We may escape the pandemic if considered on its effect on the global scale but we may not be lucky in future. The reality is poverty is an attraction to all manner of maladies. As nations it is high time to devise mechanisms to eradicate poverty and a key contributor to that which is corruption. No nation on earth or will ever grow rich with corruption embedded in its fabric. For Africa it’s time to shape up. Poverty need to be eradicated soonest possible. It cannot be eradicated without fixing a lot of mess in governance and in politics. At the same time the Covid 19 – blame games happening on a globe scale and all manner of politics favours Africa. Africa can be the next seat for manufacturing. But who is listening to act?
By Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
The Writer is a Political, Economic and Social Analyst and Commentator, the Leader of a Leading Renewable Energy Organisation in Africa, Researcher, Consultant, and Chairman Consumer Downtown Association and also represents Several Other Organisations in various capacities including being the Senior Executive of one of the Auto Industry Associations in Kenya.