By Andrew Wasike
NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – Like soldiers, who protect boundaries of countries, doctors and other health workers worldwide have moved to battle zones to defeat an invisible but lethal enemy coronavirus or COVID-19.
Armed with helmets, gloves, face shields, masks, and protective clothing, hundreds of doctors like Kevin Nguringa in Kenya are working round the clock to beat the virus, while risking their own lives.
They say that fight against COVID-19 has parallels to participating in a war.
Identifying challenges facing in the warzone, Kenyan doctor -- stationed at the Kenyatta National Hospital, the biggest referral hospital in East Africa -- complained about lack of community participation and also a dearth of personal protection equipment (PPE).
“There is a lack of community engagement and people’s understanding of COVID-19. They are still to comprehend the importance of social distancing. Even when they come for treatment, the crowd. They also do not listen to wash hands or abide by other regulations” he said.
Further, the doctor said that there was a lack of availability of adequate protective gear. He, however, hastened to add that the government is working overtime to make up proper supplies. But he said that challenges are mounting up every day.
Like a soldier who risks his life at the frontiers, the doctor is also bound by an oath to protect the lives of patients at the cost of his own life.
“The oath that every doctor in this country and globally take is to affirm to prioritize the life of the patient and to provide the highest level of care, “he said.
In these times of pandemic, doctors in Kenya are forced to stay away from their families to avoid the spread of infection.
“I have reduced interactions with my relatives to zero. I have no contacts with my immediate family,” said Nguringa.
Like him, most of the health workers assigned to stem the spread of the coronavirus in Kenya have moved out of homes to avoid transmission of infection to their families.
-It is like fighting world war
A nurse Tiffany Kirmi, who is also attending COVID-19 patients said it was like fighting a world war.
“We have seen what is happening in other countries. We have taken precautionary measures to wage war on the virus. Just like soldiers we have assessed the situation very carefully,” she told Anadolu Agency.
Kirimi said that several health workers in the world have died while putting up a spirited fight. She said most of those who died were attending to patients until they breathed last. “Just like soldiers, doctors have shown they do not care for their lives in a battle, “she added.
Dr. Nguringa, who had volunteered to treat Ebola patients in Central Africa said under such conditions there was fear of mental health issues to crop up among health workers. But he said that counselors and those dealing with mental health issues have been hired to take care.
“In terms of transmission and management of the disease, use of PPE and behavioral changes like the practice of social distancing, hand-washing and educating the community was necessary,” he said. He said Ebola and COVID-19 were similar diseases, but their modes of transmission are different.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency Thurania Kaugiria, secretary of the Nairobi branch of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) said not only Kenya but the whole world was facing a shortage of protective equipment.
“If you look at the statistics in Italy whereby you hear that 50 doctors have died. You look at yourself and you think it is your colleague and it is someone who has gone through the same training as you. So such concerns of fear are there, “he said. His union has set up a hotline for health workers to provide them psychological and social support.
He also complained that Kenyans are not following the government's directives to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
“If Kenyans would be mindful of their brothers and sisters and follow the due instructions issued by the government, we will fight this pandemic. It costs us nothing to struggle for a short duration of time, to deny ourselves the pleasures of life to get out of this pandemic,” he maintained.
According to the U.S.-based John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, Kenya has so far reported 50 COVID-19 cases. One person has died. There are 48 active cases in the East African country, with coastline on the Indian Ocean.