New Delhi to train Kenyan healthcare workers amid COVID-19 crisis

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India May 02, 2020, 01.00 AM(IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

File photo of envoy to Kenya Rahul Chhabra. Photograph:( WION )

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Meanwhile, New Delhi will be soon training many Africans including Kenyan healthcare workers to deal with COVID crisis under thee ITEC courses.

Gurudwaras and temples in Kenya have come together to reach out to the people in Kenya over COVID-19 crisis, with many opening doors and providing food. 

Speaking exclusively to our Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Nairobi, Indian envoy to Kenya Rahul Chhabra said, "Kenyan govt appreciative the Indian community's support during COVID-19 crisis". 

He also said that Kenya is following on the footsteps of India on handling the COVID-19 situation and taking inspiration as well on imposing the lockdown.

Meanwhile, New Delhi will be soon training many Africans including Kenyan healthcare workers to deal with COVID-19 crisis under thee ITEC courses.

WION: How are India and Kenya cooperating with each other on Covid crisis?

Rahul Chhabra: External Affairs Minister Dr Jaishankar spoke to the Foreign Minister of Kenya last week and during the course of the call, they discussed how India is showing solidarity to African countries and find a way on working forward. 

In that conversation, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary requested Dr Jaishankar for the relaxation of the export ban and for HCQ and that was granted on the spot by Dr Jaishankar and they were very much appreciative of the fact.

In addition, we are also running an e-ITEC course. We managed to get five Kenyans to register for it and they are specially meant for health care professionals. This training on COVID-19 and it is extremely timely.

This is the first of the course and we are hoping to have many more courses coming up and many more Kenyans participating in it.

We had over 400 Kenyans go for ITEC courses just last year. So ITEC is a very popular programme. So we are helping in collaborating, in terms of the evacuation of Kenyan nationals who are currently in India.

Many of them go there for treatments of all kinds, cancer, operations, knee.. because health care here is little weak and these Kenyans have received the treatment for other diseases and now waiting to come back.

So Kenyan govt has requested us and we have facilitated not only the approval of flights to take off from India and bring back here but also in terms of road transport because these people are all over, in Chennai, Hyderabad and flight will take off only in Mumbai and Delhi.

We need to get them all together, helping them get the permission to do road transport and in medium-term we looking to collaborate on -ArogyaBharti (Tele-medicine) which is a collaboration of hospitals through the internet. 

WION: This ITEC course for other African countries too?

Rahul Chhabra: It is not only for Africa, but it is also for SAARC countries. It is for al our partner countries. ITEC has over 100 partner countries. They are tailormade and different languages. It is very interesting and fascinating. It is very timely and I am sure Kenyan govt will benefit from it and so will the rest of the people.

WION: How many Indians stranded in the country due to COVID?

Rahul Chhabra: 100 Indians stranded in Nairobi, over 150 in Mombasa which is a port town in Kenya, 5 in Somalia, so there are these 255-260 Indians who are actually stranded, meaning they came here for tourism, they came here for business or meet friends or relatives and now they can't go back.

For them what we are doing is that we have maintained a list, we are regularly in contact with them, talking to them, advising them to be calm. Bear with all of us, bear with the country, bear with the world to beat this pandemic. we are also helping them fill up the visa form online from the Kenyan govt side. 20,000 Indian passport holders, 60,000 OCI cardholder in Kenya.

For them, I have been doing a video conference with heads of the community associations. I have done calls over 25 heads came online and we discussed best practises, what they doing, shared experiences. There are more than 20 Gurudwaras, the one Gurudwara in Nairobi is serving hot meals to 400 people daily and dry rations to 150 people daily.

The Hindu community has been giving 20,000 litres of disinfectant and hand sanitisers, 50,000 litres to govt and police personnel and 2 cubicles for testing COVID. The Hindu community's chapter in Nakuru fed 4000 families last month.

The Lohana samaj is having a helpline for seniors so that they don't have to go out and expose themselves. This helpline is managed by teenagers and youth, so it is inculcating a sense of service. If you get a call on this helpline, you go out and shop and supply these elderly people.

It is a very good way of fo training and upbringing. I want the other communities to hear what communities are doing so that each of them can share the practices. On OCI cardholders, a number of prominent Indians here, like Mr Narendra Raval, he is a very big businessman here and he has donated a lot of money and he has now on President Kenyatta's emergency response fund.

More like Bimal Shah, Manu Chandaria big business here who are donating generously to President Kenyatta's fund. When I briefed Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo, she is very happy with Indian community's support. In two small instances, there was an Indian solider in Indian army deployed in South Sudan. His flight was transiting via Nairobi, from here he left for Juba and just as he was about to land, South Sudan closed airspace and said no foreigner allowed.

He was put on the flight back and he landed in Nairobi, which also closed itself and India also closed itself. The Indian soldier was in no man's land and we stepped in and helped him and he is still here and we look after him.

Another Indian was stuck in Malawai. We got clearance for his plane, as a med evacuation, come to Nairobi and is currently in the city getting himself treated. He is quite happy and well looked after. 

WION: We are sending medicines to these countries also?

Rahul Chhabra: Last week, over one and half-million dollars worth of HIV medicine arrived. Kenyan govt is very happy about it. This was a commitment made by PM Modi when he visited Kenya, few years back.

The medicines have been coming in tranches but very welcome time. Kenya is purchasing 379 thousand tablets of HCQ from us and we have allowed.

Other APIs they asking for permission, so we are going to process that and they will be able to access that. It is just not medicines, we just focus on the medicine part of it. Kenyan govt has requested for 1000 tonnes of chlorine, calcium hypochlorite which is a water disinfectant.

We try best to supply them with that, we will probably give them as a grant. Locust issue is going on at the moment here for the last several weeks and FAOs consignment was coming here from India and India declared a lockdown.

All the trucks were held up, again the embassy had to step in and get the permission and passes, and all the pesticides have arrived here to deal with the locust menace.

Lastly, EXIM bank gave them a loan, year and a half back to modernise its textile factory which is the largest factory in East Africa at $30 million. Today, that factory to producing thousands and thousands of face mask.

WION: Are we preparing a quarantine facility for stranded Indians?

Rahul Chhabra: No need to do that, since no one requiring quarantine facility. No Indian has been infected but in anticipation of that Indian community members have been encouraged and they have done that, they have gone and spoken to hospitals and hotels to negotiate the rates in case, anyone requires to stay under quarantine.

The community has also raised funds and kept money aside if somebody needs money and is admitted to these facilities, this money will be used to pay for the expense.

WION: How has been the situation on the ground and how are diplomats coping up with it?

Rahul Chhabra: The first case was identified in Kenya on March 6. Now, two months later we are at 400 cases and15 deaths. While testing is limited, they are ramping up testing, promising to really ramp it up a lot.

In the meantime, authorities have taken a lot of measures. For example, 7 pm onwards there is a night curfew and even diplomats can not go out. Everyone is subject to night curfew till 5 am in the morning.

Bars, mall are shut at 7 am and no congregations are allowed, including religious ones are banned. Schools, colleges are also suspended.

Use of mask is also compulsory, they have taken a lot of measures. We hope they will come out of it and they had the experience of other countries going forward.

We are taking full abundant precautions, maintaining social distance while still trying to keep up with our duties. We are trying our best to be ahead of the curve, monitor the evolving situation very closely and what all we can do to counter it.

Like for example, visa wing is close so we using the time to renovate that wing to make it more professional and more user friendly.

All the Indian diplomats and spouses are feeling safe and comfortable, in fact, my wife has regular skype calls with the wives of all the Indian diplomats and officers here. So every 2-3 days they catch up, chat for an hour. I have skype calls with them once in a while and we exchange that to keep our morale up. It is a tough situation and we try to keep up with that.

WION: Have we shared any model of containment with them?

Rahul Chhabra: The Kenyans are actively looking at all models across. They were looking at our lookdown, they said if India which is a country of 1.3 billion can have a full lockdown, why can we have a partial curfew.

This is also a third world developing country, so they looked at that sort of intermediate step and they are quite strictly enforcing it. And also that eITEC COVID training, I am sure they going to pick up on how to handle the situation. They very closely monitor the situation in India and try and adapt it to own situation.