From L-R Mandisa Mashologo UNDP Kenya Deputy Rep Programmes, Dr. Mercy Mwangangi CAS Ministry of Health, Hon Mutahi Kagwe, CS Ministry of Health, Evelyn Koech, UNDP Kenya Environment Team Leader, Amb Ryoichi Horie of Japan, Walid Badawi, UNDP Kenya Resident Representative, Caroline Kiarie, Head of Exploration, UNDP Kenya AccLab and Lillian Njoro Head of Experimentation UNDP Kenya AccLab at the launch of the Smart Anti-Epidemic Robotic Solutions which will be piloted as part of the UNDP support to Kenya’s COVID-19 response.

[Salutations]

Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Health, Hon Mutahi Kagwe,

Cabinet Secretary Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Hon. Joseph Mucheru,

Japan Ambassador to Kenya, Amb. Ryoichi Horie,

Russia Ambassador to Kenya, Amb. Dmitry Maksimychev,

Rwanda Ambassador to Kenya, Amb. Dr. Richard Masozera,

Principal Secretary Ministry of Health, Ms. Susan Mochache,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen, All protocols observed

Good morning

It is a great pleasure to join you this morning in the launch and handover of the smart anti-epidemic robotic solutions to support the COVID-19 response in Kenya.

2020 marked the beginning of a Decade of Action towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But with the COVID-19 pandemic, the context for development has fundamentally changed. The world, and indeed Kenya, faces the greatest socio-economic shock in a generation, coming at a time of acute inequality and ecological fragility.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the long-standing structural deficiencies in health systems, not just in Kenya but around the world. The pandemic has had adverse impacts on the health and livelihoods of families and communities and in particular the most vulnerable groups having a disproportionate impact on women as we have seen in the rise of Gender Based Violence and teenage pregnancies which threaten progress across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As part of our mission to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and build resilience to crises and shocks, UNDP is helping countries to urgently and effectively respond to COVID-19. Globally, UNDP launched its integrated Prepare-Respond-Recover COVID-19 Response “Beyond Recovery: Towards 2030” strategy in March 2020, with a focus on three priorities:

  •  Health systems support
  • Multi-sectoral crisis management
  • Socio-economic impact assessment and response

In line with the Secretary-General’s mandate for UNDP, as the technical lead on socio-economic response and recovery, UNDP is working closely with the UN Resident Coordinator and the UN Country Team in Kenya to respond to the government’s requests for socio-economic assessments, support and implementation of the national COVID-19 response and recovery plans.

UNDP has put its assets at the disposal of the UN system to facilitate a response that builds on the expertise of the entirety of the UN System, and provides the integrated policy advice and implementation support required in a development emergency setting.

So far, UNDP in Kenya has mobilized over USD 7 million in support of COVID-19 response efforts. The funds have been used to support, among others:

  • Technical leadership support in the drafting and implementation of the UN COVID-19 Socio-economic Response Plan, technical and financial support towards the Government of Kenya national Economic Recovery Strategy led by National Treasury and Planning and the County COVID-19 Social-Economic Reengineering and Recovery Strategy led by the Council of Governors
  • The deployment of 50 UN Volunteer frontline health workers to increase response capacity in 14 counties placed in hospitals and medical facilities to counties most in need under our UN Joint Devolution Programme implemented in collaboration with our sister agencies UNWOMEN and UNICEF - in partnership with the Ministry of Devolution and ASALs;
  • Procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) in support of various government institutions to support business continuity including MoH, EACC, Council of Governors, Ministry of Environment and Forestry amongst others with a focus on buy Kenya and build Kenya so as to also foster local economic revitalization;
  • Provision of medical waste disposal equipment to facilitate safe management of waste in 13 health facilities across the 4 counties we are working with under our Global Environment Facility (GEF) support programme in collaboration with the Ministry  of Environment and Forestry
  • Raising awareness, and providing factual information and communication and combatting disinformation  on COVID-19 – including addressing gender-based violence and access to justice through our partnership and collaboration with civil society organizations, the County Assemblies Forum, and County Governments
  • Surfacing and supporting innovations from brilliant Kenyan youth that with the right support can hold the keys to doing development differently and building forward better through the Great COVID Innovation Challenge among several other innovation challenges in the creatives sector, and others to support People with Disabilities;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we all know, COVID-19 is a highly infectious virus and healthcare workers worldwide have been left vulnerable due to ease of transmission of the virus from human to human.

The use of technology can accelerate the development of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Digital innovations can also strengthen the health and community systems needed to deliver diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to people in need.

As a pilot initiative, UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Health with support from the generous support of the Government of Japan will deploy three smart anti-epidemic robot solutions to support frontline healthcare worker engagement in the fight against COVID-19. UNDP has successfully supported similar initiatives in Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea and India and we are pleased to draw from global and regional experiences to pilot and test this technology in Kenya. Here again Kenya is among a handful of countries looking to experiment with such technology to leapfrog development by creating new opportunities for knowledge generation and job creation in new sectors of the economy through embracing technology.

The smart anti-epidemic robotic solutions are envisioned as a measure to mitigate the inherent risks by supporting some of the high exposure functionalities like temperature screening, mask detection, automatic disinfection and audio and video broadcasting and conferencing.

Looking ahead beyond the pandemic, we envision these smart anti-epidemic robots as an opportunity to further learning and enhance skills in the field of robotics in Kenya. We are all aware that robotics, including hardware and software programming are key components of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and will greatly impact the future of health, a theme of an important conference that H.E. CS Kagwe is planning to organise here in Kenya later on in the year.  We are therefore keen to leverage this technology to provide an opportunity for the youth in Kenya to gain 4IR skills and hopefully open more employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. We have engaged key stakeholders in academia such as the University of Nairobi School of Computing and Informatics and look forward to strengthening these partnerships to benefit the youth of Kenya through our recently established SDG Accelerator lab which is co-chaired by H.E. CS Mucheru and the UN Resident Coordinator and brings together all the key role players in the innovation ecosystem in an integrated, practical and agile structure that advances youth employment and innovation in the country.

As this is a pilot initiative, we are also viewing this through an experimental lens as a long-term investment to test the impact and effectiveness of robotics in the healthcare response. The hope is that through this initiative we will be able to uncover insights on how to leverage technology to improve service delivery within the Country’s healthcare system and work closely with the Government to scale some of the technology solutions. We envisage using this pilot initiative as an opportunity to begin testing some of these technologies within our healthcare system and hopefully gauge our preparedness and readiness for a potential scaled up adoption of similar technologies across more public health facilities. These are some of the lessons that we hope could inform such a conference on the future of health like the one envisaged by CS Kagwe.

To support capacity development and to address the question of sustainability in the use of this innovative technology, UNDP, facilitated a learning mission to Kigali, Rwanda in November 2020.  This gave representatives from the Ministry of Health an opportunity to engage with their counterparts in Rwanda and exchange knowledge and insights based on their respective experiences. The insights gained from the learning mission will help inform the deployment of the robotic solutions in Kenya to ensure a successful pilot initiative.

The COVID-19 response strategies implemented by the Ministry of Health in Rwanda included fully digitalizing their solutions, such as contact tracing, use of smart bracelets to manage home-based care of COVID-19 patients, and use of online passenger locator forms and unique identifier codes to manage travelers at different ports of entry. Additionally, the Kenya mission was able to note that Rwanda has a centralized data management system with a dashboard to consolidate and collate all the relevant data related to the COVID-19 response and communicate in real-time to decision-makers and key stakeholders. One of the operational challenges noted by the mission which has informed our implementation and sustainability strategy here in Kenya has been the acceptance and buy-in of the new technology to facilitate smooth transition and integration into the process or workflows at the centres where the robots are planned for use - airports and treatment centres. To address this challenge, consistent and continued sensitization was required across all levels to ensure that everyone was well informed on the role of the robotic solutions to enhance the work at hand. To this effect, we have had a sound sensitization, capacity development and skills training programme including maintenance of the robotics with tech companies in the country thereby engaging the private sector.

Honourable CS Kagwe, distinguished guests,

UNDP is pleased to partner with the Government of Kenya in piloting the three smart anti-epidemic robotic solutions to protect frontline health workers and provide critical support in the fight against COVID-19 in Kenya. The robots have been named Jasiri (courageous), Shujaa (hero) and Tumaini (hope) in honour of the healthcare workers who continue to serve the people of Kenya with strength, resilience and bravery. I look forward to the successful deployment and integration of the robots within the Kenya health system.

In addition to the handover of the robots today, we are also pleased to announce the handover of the following:

  • 2 Medical waste microwaves for Migori and Siaya Counties these microwaves have already been delivered to the hospitals and are currently being installed – 400,000 USD
  • PPEs valued at over 200,000 USD to further complement our contribution to partner institutions for the continuity of business in the national response
  • Testing kits valued at over 230,000 USD

As I conclude, I commend the Government of Kenya for putting in place robust and effective COVID-19 management strategies that have so far resulted in far fewer human infections and fatalities than had been earlier projected by various models.  I wish to also acknowledge` and thank the bilateral and multilateral development partners for their solidarity with the people of Kenya in addressing the adverse impact of the pandemic.

Specifically, I wish to recognise the Government of Japan through the Ambassador of Japan – His Excellency Ryoichi Horie - for their flexibility in availing resources to UNDP at global level in support of COVID 19 Response which Kenya is among 60 beneficiary countries.   

I also wish to acknowledge the Government of Russia for availing an additional 1 million USD towards UNDP’s support to Kenya’s COVID-19 response and recovery effort which will also be implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Health.

I appreciate the presence of H.E. Mr. Maksimychev, the Russian Ambassador to Kenya, to witness for himself the potential of the leveraging of the investments made by all our development partners as we seek to optimize our support to the Government of Kenya.

In advancing South-South cooperation, I wish to also thank the Government of Rwanda, represented here today by H.E. Ambassador Masozera, for the cooperation with UNDP which plays a critical role in the piloting of this initiative in Kenya.

I also take this opportunity to thank all our development partners that have supported UNDP’s and indeed the UN family’s engagement in repurposing existing programmes to address the immediate needs to the national COVID response through our respective programmes. Thank you to the Governments of Sweden, Finland, Italy and the European Union – for your steadfast engagement and trust in UNDP and the UN family.  You have made it possible for us to scale up interventions that support the immediate and evolving needs of the people of Kenya that has resulted in a robust package of integrated programmes for continued support to the national COVID-19 response.

UNDP reaffirms it commitment to support the Government and people of Kenya to tackle this unique but by no means insurmountable development challenge imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

#TogetherWeCan.

Thank you, Asanteni Sana.

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