Africa Defense Forum
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Donated Ventilators Help Patients in Coastal Kenya

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The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has delivered 14 ventilators to Kenya to help treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients. The handover to Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in Mombasa is part of a U.S. promise to deliver 200 ventilators to hospitals throughout the country.

The ventilators, delivered amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in Mombasa, offer life-extending support for seriously ill patients with breathing problems related to COVID-19 and other conditions. The breathing machines can enhance oxygen levels in patients whose lungs are failing. They move oxygen in and out of the lungs through a tube inserted in a person’s airway.

During a November 1 handover ceremony, Mombasa County Deputy Gov. William Kingi thanked USAID for donating the “very important equipment.”

“It will really help in managing the pandemic. My wish is that we don’t need to come to that level of really having to use this equipment. [That would mean] we are so sick that we need them,” Kingi said during the ceremony. “What we need to do is be able to protect ourselves.”

Kingi said a recent uptick in cases in coastal Kenya happened because people became complacent and stopped following safety protocols.

“There is a surge in Mombasa that has come about because we put our guards down,” Kingi said. “Simple protocols by the Ministry of Health — social distancing, putting on masks and sanitizing — if we practice those three, we will see the surge go down. We don’t want people to go to hospital.

Mombasa Gov. Hassan Joho also thanked USAID, saying the donation was “timely and will be utilized well for its intended purpose.”

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter announced the donation of 200 ventilators in October.

“This donation is part of the United States’ ongoing commitment to the health and safety of Kenyans and is in addition to the 7.6 billion Kenyan shillings (nearly $69.6 million) already given to fight COVID-19 in Kenya and the 60 billion Kenyan shillings (more than $549 million) given annually to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” McCarter said. “Donations such as these ventilators and medicines have saved the lives of millions of Kenyans.”

In June, Kenya’s Ministry of Health reported that the country of 51.4 million people had just 189 ventilators available for COVID-19 patients.

Other U.S. donations have bolstered Kenya’s COVID-19 response through equipment, testing, training and research, as well as by supporting health, clean water, sanitation, education, employment and food security.

In early October, USAID announced the start of a three-year, $7 million Local Works program to support communities in the Maasai Mara landscape and northern and coastal Kenya that are struggling with lost jobs and decreased tourism revenue because of COVID-19.

Although Kenya has accepted U.S. assistance, its leaders and medical workers have demonstrated a willingness to confront the crisis. In August, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced plans for a COVID-19 vaccine consortium.

By November, about 40 people, mostly front-line health care workers, participated in human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine in Kenya, Voice of America (VOA) reported. The University of Oxford partnered with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on the vaccine. The KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi hosted the trials.

KEMRI’s Samuel Sang said researchers are trying to determine whether the vaccine is safe and effective for Kenyans.

“Vaccines which have been found to work and are safe in one population [may not] work across [other] populations,” Sang told VOA.

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