We are facing a public health crisis that has never been witnessed before in the history of the modern world. Like a whirlwind, Covid-19 struck the world so fast no one seems to understand what it is that is happening. In a single, ominous strike COVID-19 has killed thousands, shut down economies, rendered millions jobless and overseen closure of schools. Practically, COVID-19 has completely disrupted all spheres of our lives in ways we couldn’t ever have imagined before. An article published in the United Nations Website states that, “The Covid-19 outbreak affects all segments of the population and is particularly detrimental to members of those social groups in the most vulnerable situations, continues to affect populations, including people living in poverty situations, older persons, persons with disabilities, youth, and indigenous peoples.”
In efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, the Kenyan government has rolled out dozens of initiatives designed at keeping people safe. These includes simple good hygiene measures such as thoroughly washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizers, wearing masks in public to drastic measures such as the 7pm to 5am curfew, closure of schools, directives for public servants to work from home and limitation of inter-county movements among others.
As a premier institution of higher learning and one of the best universities in Africa, the University of Nairobi has taken a leading role in the fight against this global pandemic. Last week for instance, the African Union (AU) appointed three University of Nairobi Professors to its Science Technology and Innovations (STI) taskforce for Covid-19 interventions. In addition to these, dozens of College of Health Sciences (CHS) staff are directly involved in treating patients at designated coronavirus health facilities. There are also dozens of the University of Nairobi staff involved in spreading knowledge about this pandemic through traditional media and new media. From crisis communications specialists, to epidemiologists, to sociologists and economists among others; the University of Nairobi hasn’t had a shortage of expertise on the frontline serving Kenyans and the world. Our students too, have been up to the task. For example, a group of our students have been driving a social media campaign under hashtag #kaaradanamask in order to inform and sensitize Kenyans on self-protective measures against coronavirus. Hundreds of others are directly helping national and county governments to deliver supplies including food stuffs and sanitation products to the most vulnerable members of our communities. Our senior medical students are also directly involved in providing health care to coronavirus patients.
It’s understandable for people to despair in turbulent times like these but for Prof. Judith Bahemuka that is not an option. Professor Bahemuka, also UNESCO/UNITWIN chairperson has one powerful message particularly for the youth; “Keep Hope Alive.” In her remarks she says, “There is a ray of silver lining in the dark cloud of Covid-19. The silver lining is much demonstrated through the number of people, organizations and institutions that are coming up with innovative ways of pushing new knowledge, innovation and new technologies in order to save lives. The number of new cases may be on the increase, but the tested cases that have turned negative and have finished their quarantine period are encouraging.”
Prof. Bahemuka is profoundly impressed by the show of common humanity in display amid the pandemic. “Our common humanity is pushing us to help, feel for each other and reach out to the most disadvantaged.”
While keeping hope alive, Prof. Bahemuka has a challenge for the youth, “I call upon you to take leadership in the fight against Covid-19. Use your youthful vigor to heal a wounded global community and fight misinformation by spreading factual messages of hope in the communities.”
In her parting shot, Prof. Bahumuka says humanity now more than ever needs to abide by the philosophy of Ubuntu. Nelson Mandela described Ubuntu as, “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others.” Indeed it’s time for us to come together in order to defeat Covid-19, let us all support our health workers, aid workers and the most vulnerable people in our communities. Let us contribute to the cause in our own unique ways by observing set government regulations and bravely confronting the realities of our times.