Nairobi, 12th May 2021
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights - Chief Executive Officer Remarks During the official Launch of the Survey Findings on Human Rights for Vulnerable Groups during COVID-19 pandemic
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Since the announcement of the first COVID-19 case in Kenya in March 2020, the Government has put in place a raft of measures in a bid to manage its spread. Almost at the same time, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights immediately embarked on a series of activities aimed at ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights during this period.
These activities included issuing of advisories, review of laws, polices and legislations related to COVID-19, capacity building on promotion and protection of human rights during the COVID-19 period, processing of complaints and investigation of violations related to COVID-19 and redress for some of the violations through the judicial process.
The KNCHR developed a monitoring framework to guide all its operations related to COVID-19. The framework captured 9 thematic areas of concern to KNCHR: Health Facilities & Services; Water & Sanitation; Housing; Food; Labour & Social Security; Access to Justice; Media & Access to Information; Detention Facilities & Other Holding Facilities; and Vulnerable Groups. Applying this monitoring framework, the Commission released its first monitoring situation report: “Pain and Pandemic – unmasking the state of human rights in Kenya in containment of the COVID-19 pandemic” covering the period of 15th March to 6th June 2020.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Between July 2020 and March 2021, the Commission embarked on its second situational report that shifted focus from the general population to a special interest group namely: The youth, the women, PWDs, The elderly, intersex persons and urban & rural poor.
The KNCHR Commissioned Infotrak Research and Consulting to undertake a thematic survey on the rights of vulnerable groups during the pandemic.
The methodology of the survey entailed; desk top research, qualitative and quantitative researches involving 2,430 interviews with members of the public, 30 key informant interviews drawn from critical stakeholders and experts and focused group discussions with 5 categories of Vulnerable Groups.The sample distribution of the survey was in 31 Counties.
The focus on the vulnerable persons is driven by the fact that as COVID-19 pandemic continues to be experienced in the Country, its emerging socio-economic and human rights impacts are evident especially amongst vulnerable groups. These groups are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 as they face isolation, misinformation, and lack of access to critical information and are particularly vulnerable to torture and abuse by State actors. These groups also account for the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment in addition to having limited access to social protection.
Unemployment, high cost of living and access to healthcare are the key issues of concern among Kenyans. This was cited by 39% of the surveyed respondents. Other key issues affecting Kenyans include, poor infrastructure, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, quality of education and food security.
Across all the groups, unemployment still stands out as the main issue of concern. However, the elderly are more concerned about the high cost of living.
COVID-19 Pandemic has extremely affected the activities of most Kenyans, this as noted by 65% of the surveyed respondents. Additionally, the top three areas that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic according to the surveyed respondents are individual jobs, education and access to food. Other areas mentioned include: housing, healthcare, access to WASH facilities and access to justice.
It is now my humble duty to invite the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Director of Research, Advocacy and Outreach to share the detailed presentation of the survey findings. Kindly note that the survey findings are available on our website: www.knchr.org.
Thereafter, I will share a raft of Commissions’ recommendations on the survey findings.
In view of the above survey findings, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights makes the following conclusions and recommendations;
- The COVID-19 Pandemic is not only a health crisis, it also continues to affect the livelihoods of majority of Kenyans. The immediate effects of the pandemic as highlighted by most Kenyans have been loss of source of livelihoods, increased cost of living and inadequate access to healthcare.
- While it is clear that health is critical it is noted that individual health and the health sector in general have been adversely affected by the pandemic. On the other hand there is limited access to medical services and on the other there is inadequate medical facilities. This has not only affected the vulnerable groups but all Kenyans in general.
- COVID-19 survivors continue to bear the brunt of stigmatization and discrimination. This has been occasioned by myths and stereotypes that have overtime engulfed the society
- Due to unaffordability, unavailability and inaccessibility in some instance, water and sanitation facilities continue to be consumed at constrained levels in the society. This has led to worrying personal hygiene trends as well inadequate adherence to Government directives requiring frequent hand washing in order to limit and avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
- The vulnerable in the society have been significantly denied their basic right to shelter especially during the COVID-19 period. This has been evidenced by increased evictions due to inability to pay rents. Moreover, the Government has done little to alleviate the situation.
- Food security is still an issue more so for the vulnerable groups in Kenya. In essence, the plight of the vulnerable has been mirrored by their lack of adequate food supply. This has subjected them to illnesses and malnutrition.
- The Labour and social security sector has been characterized by increased unemployment as a result of slowdown in activities. We however note that the Government stepped in, in an attempt to cushion the sector and employees to be specific from the harsh economic environment. Government incentives such as tax reductions have among the outstanding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is job losses posing threat to the lively.
- Access to Justice has been guaranteed by the courts of law. The Judiciary has embraced technology in championing key digitization initiatives such as virtual court proceedings. This has led to increased access to justice. However, it goes without saying that inadequate court procedures such as limited face to face proceedings has on the other hand led to the denial of access to justice for some Kenyans especially the vulnerable this has led to adjournment of select proceedings.
- It appear that cases of violence are on the rise. This has been as seen through an increase in the cases reported. Key to note is that matters reported to the police are higher than those reported to the local chiefs.
- The education sector has also been adversely affected by the pandemic. Learning in both the public and private institutions had to be halted in order to curb the spread of the virus. While some learners have been able to continue learning through online classes and radio/TV programs, a majority of the vulnerable learners lack the opportunity to continue learning.
Recommendations and Call To Action:
- Unemployment: There is need for a multi stakeholder involving both the private and the public sector to address the issue of unemployment, which has been occasioned by the protracted COVID-19 pandemic period. In addition, it is important for the government to support the ease of conducting business in the country especially during this pandemic to provide more employment opportunities. This will go a long way in easing the burden of high cost of living and inadequate accessibility to social amenities such as health.
- Medical facilities and services have been inaccessible to most Kenyans including the vulnerable. Against this background, it is paramount for key stakeholders in the health sector to alleviate the situation. This can be achieved through adoption of key initiatives by stakeholders in the sector in terms of adequate and prompt financing. In addition, key initiatives such as the UHC program need to be fully rolled countrywide and in so doing cater for the unique needs of the vulnerable groups
- Combating Stigma: It is critical for key stakeholders in the health sector to strategically come up with key messaging around COVID-19 and the stereotypes around it to protect the COVID-19 survivors and their loved ones from being ostracized. This will ensure that there is swifter recovery and fewer mental health issues linked to discrimination and stigmatization.
- Water and Sanitation: Key stakeholders in the WASH sector need to capitalize on the gap that evidently exists in the space and ensure adequate provision of WASH facilities. This will aid not only in advancing personal hygiene but also in the fight against COVID-19. Special attention needs to be given to the access of such facilities to the people with disabilities (PWDs).
- Access to Food is pertinent to the survival of human beings. It is therefore recommended that food relief be made a priority to the vulnerable groups in the country. This is to ensure livelihood sustenance. It is thus critical for key stakeholders in the sector to leverage on this in a bid to guarantee the right to life a basic human rights stipulated the Bill of Rights.
- Access to Justice: It is recommended that the judiciary be facilitated to improve the turnaround times in resolving cases and in building the capacity to address the current back log and the extended court matters. More mechanisms also need to be put in place in escalating violence cases to the relevant authorities. In addition, requisite systems needs to be established by relevant stakeholders and proper campaigns done to ensure awareness of the same among the vulnerable groups.
- The Education Sector like all the other sectors has been affected by the pandemic. Ahead of the already scheduled school opening it is important for the actors in the education sector to put in place the requisite measures to ensure that the under privileged are well catered for as the inequality among the learners is visible from this study whereby some children had a chance to continue with learning while others lacked such opportunities.
- Lastly: The County and National governments need to create awareness on the available measures being taken to protect the vulnerable and their loved ones from disasters and pandemics. In cases where such measures are not available, there is need for prompt intervention by the 2 levels of government to put in place the necessary structures that would enable access basic needs such as food, shelter, education, security among others.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
The Commission will continue with its monitoring work and in this regard it reiterates that the fight against COVID-19 will not be won without collective efforts by the State and the citizens at large. KNCHR lauds the media for its continued efforts of sharing critical information with the masses. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights invites members of the public and our stakeholders to continue engaging the Commission via our relevant contacts.
I Thank You All
Dr. Bernard Mogesa, PhD, CPM
Chief Executive Officer/ Secretary to The Commission