Misconceptions on COVID-19 persists in Kenya’s rural areas

Turkana women carry canisters to get water from a borehole near Baragoy, Kenya February 14, 2017. PHOTO | REUTERS

In Kenya, there are misconceptions about the coronavirus pandemic, especially in rural and remote areas. That is notwithstanding the multiple awareness campaigns about COVID-19.

As the number of the coronavirus infections and deaths continue to rise in Africa, so does public anxiety, particularly in rural areas where primary health care is often lacking.

Africa, just like the rest of the world, is struggling to contain the spread of the virus. The problem is further compounded by a familiar enemy during pandemics: misinformation.

“Some people in this part of Kenya still believe that the coronavirus cannot survive under extreme temperatures and therefore cannot get infected with the virus.”

“We hear the coronavirus is there, far away in Nairobi but not here, here we have hunger, malaria among adults and children, even our goats have their own diseases and that’s how we view the coronavirus,” a Turkana resident said.

Dr. Bonventure Ameyo, deputy CEO, Lodwar County Referral Hospital submits that:
“Initially we had that mentality that actually COVID-19 doesn’t exist and Turkana being a hot area that may be you cannot get infected in such an environment, but of course that myth has been dismantled when we started getting cases.”

Turkana County recorded its first coronavirus case in May. Since then, the county has registered over 80 cases, with 63 recoveries and no death reported so far.

Compared to other counties like Nairobi and Mombasa where COVID-19 cases are higher, Turkana seems to be managing the situation well.

Despite rising infections, some choose not to follow the precautionary measures.

“My mask is inside the house, if I am going to town or in case visitors are coming here, I wear my mask but if I am alone I see no need to wear a mask and no one talks about it, that’s how we are,” Turkana county resident said.

“When we wake up every morning we do house chores, and follow the guidelines of regular hand washing and when we go to the town we wear our masks and where there are many people, we observe physical distancing.”

Local authorities are working to educate people on the importance of wearing face masks and regularly washing hands as measures to avert community infections.

“Please protect yourself, make sure you put on masks, make sure you honour social distancing, there is no need of gathering together because we are not talking of outside now, we are talking of our own whom we know by name and as our neighbors they are positive,” Jane Ajele, County Executive for Health, Turkana said.

CGTN’s Daniel Arap Moi says, community volunteers have now been deployed to help disseminate information about the virus in an attempt to stop its spread within communities.

Report by CGTN’s Daniel Arap Moi