It is my pleasure to be with you at this very important event where we have come together as partners to formally handover equipment that will be useful in the sound management of health care waste to 13 pilot healthcare facilities in 4 Counties of the country.
This event is of enormous importance to the country as it demonstrates our collective resolve in responding to the COVID-19 global pandemic here in Kenya. According to recent WHO statistics, over 2.3 million people have been infected globally, with 162,956 fatalities recorded thus far. Governments globally are implementing urgent measures to tackle the pandemic. We stand in solidarity with people and Governments around the world, and here in Kenya as the United Nations system to declare that by working together, we shall indeed defeat this COVID-19 pandemic.
I specifically take note of and appreciate the robust efforts by the Government of Kenya in ensuring effective response measures are put in place and implemented through the COVID-19 Coordinating Committee and the National Response plan. I wish to reiterate UNDP’s, and indeed the entire UN family’s, commitment to this partnership with the Government to ensure Kenya emerges victorious and defeats this virulent disease.
As you may be aware, under the leadership of the UN Resident Coordinator, the United Nations and the Government of Kenya launched a Flash Appeal through which we have requested support to the tune of $267.5m over a 6 months period to facilitate the implementation of the national COVID-19 response plan and respond to the most immediate and critical needs of 10.1 million people targeted across the country.
On behalf of UNDP and our UN sister agencies in Kenya, I wish to state that the measures by Government are essential, and if implemented fully, can result in flattening of the country’s COVID-19 curve, with fewer fatalities to the Kenyan population and minimal disruption to the economy.
With the current situation where at least 13 counties have reported COVID-19 cases, it is important that the management of waste, especially medical waste, is done in a manner that reduces exposure of communities to further contamination and subsequent outbreak of diseases. For example, unsustainable or incorrect disposal of the medical waste like facemasks that are being widely utilized by citizens may result in secondary infections - especially in vulnerable communities. We cannot even begin to imagine what a national crisis this could become.
It is important to note that as urban centres within the counties grow, so will the volume of solid waste and cases of its unsustainable disposal – for example open air burning, which is now a common practice of waste management in local settings. As a result of the attendant air pollution, we have witnessed increasing incidences of upper respiratory diseases within the Kenyan population.
We are therefore glad that this consignment of waste management equipment has come at such an opportune time, to help reinforce the important message of the nexus between environment and health. We believe that COVID-19 teaches us the importance of environmental management for our sustainable future. We will have to redouble our efforts to ensure sound waste management, and specifically sound disposal of harmful and hazardous waste from health and municipal facilities. This is what this UNDP GEF Project is seeking to do. That is - contributing to the protection of human and environmental wellbeing in Kenya.
Returns to our investment from this kind of intervention will only be realized through successful management of the risks posed by production, use, import and export of chemicals and reducing/preventing the release of Unintended Persistent Organic Pollutants (U-POPs) and toxic compounds originating from the unsafe management of waste in the Health Care and Municipal Waste Management areas.
Today, we handover equipment that will enhance the capacity of health care waste management in 13 pilot health care facilities across the four counties participating in this project – Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru. Specifically, demonstrating sound healthcare disposal technologies through the adoption of Best Available Technology (BAT) and Best Environmental Practices (BEP). In addition to the equipment being handed over today, as part of the project’s activities, over 240 health care workers have been trained on the best available technologies and practices in this area over the past 2 years.
We acknowledge the critical importance of a synergy between the national government and the county governments to ensure seamless implementation of the strategies and guidelines that are known to work. At this point, allow me to commend the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) for developing the National Guidelines for the Management of COVID-19 Waste. UNDP remains committed to supporting the successful implementation of these guidelines, and ensuring they are domesticated to respond to county specific situations.
I know that there is still much to be done to attain the sound management of chemicals in Kenya and UNDP is ready to support within the UNDAF Strategic Result Area 2 and work with other partners to strengthen waste management projects through resource mobilization embracing innovative financing strategies, and leveraging on south-south and triangular cooperation.
In conclusion, let me express my gratitude for the leadership of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Ministry of Health, as well as to our other partners for the critical roles played in the implementation of this project. UNDP remains committed to accompanying the Government and people of Kenya in designing and delivering development results and to upscale efforts towards realizing lasting peace, economic growth and a healthy living environment for its citizens.