The Star (Kenya) : 2020-09-11

SASA : 25 : 25

SASA

Friday-sunday, September 11-13, 2020 THE-STAR.CO.KE 25 omen cover TELEMEDICI­NE baskets and decorative mats. Njeri, a 78-year-old widow, also sells homemade soap, a business she began recently. “Before March, 2020, things used to be good. All my life I’ve been a businesswo­man. I once sold scrap metal and used the earnings to buy the plot where I built my house,” she says. “I started selling bedsheets in 1990, and before corona, I could hawk my bed sheets as far as the Thika Superhighw­ay. I used to make money back then, but when corona happened, I couldn’t wander around as I used to. People would not want to approach me because they feared I carried coronaviru­s germs in my bedsheets.” When the lockdown crushed her businesses in April, she had to quickly think of something else lest her family starves. She planted sukuma wiki and arrowroots at the small space outside her home. She also began weaving beads into different products. “I sell my baskets for around Sh1,500 each, the small keyholders go for Sh50 and the big ones Sh100. I sell the table mats at Sh200. But due to the bad business, I was forced to lower the prices; otherwise, nobody would buy at the normal price.” Njeri, too, has a big family to take care of. Her husband died in 1999, leaving behind eight children and some grandchild­ren. “My children, most of whom do not have regular jobs, have their own children. And I have to help bring them up,” she says. Some of the children live in her two-roomed house. Njeri admits if she had been living in a rental house, she would have been unable to raise rent. The KNBS household survey showed that almost 30.9 per cent of tenants who usually paid rent promptly before the pandemic were unable to pay on time in May. Njeri requests the government to support older women in small businesses. She last received the government’s cash transfer to the elderly in June and has already spent all of it. Beneficiar­ies are paid Sh4,000 every two months. Recently, Njeri also began making soap and detergent — because she discovered people want to keep their hands clean. Her customers, even in their low numbers, seem to buy the detergent more than the beaded items and vegetables. BY JOHN MUCHANGI @Jomunji Pandemic a boon for digital health services Teleafya App has seen usage jump by more than 100 per cent l businesses young man with three children. Most of them live in the tworoom house that Hannah’s late husband built. Hannah’s face lights up when she recalls how, at the beginning of the pandemic, the local church used to supply her and other poor people in Jua Kali area with food. “The church could give us something to eat, but that didn’t last long, as people stopped going to church and hence the church no longer received offerings,” she says. S ix months into the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya, close to 20,000 Kenyans have missed hospital visits for surgeries, according to the Ministry of Health. Thousands more shunned health facilities for treatment of other diseases. Health CAS Rashid Aman says malaria is the most affected. He says the number of patients seeking treatment for malaria has decreased by two thirds compared to a similar period last year. In 2017, three years before Covid-19, Vincent Chepkwony co-founded Teleafya, an app that connects patients to doctors for medical assistance. He says downloads have spiked by more than 100 per cent during the epidemic compared to before. Using text, video calling or messaging, patients with smartphone­s can request for medical care givers remotely, while patients without smartphone­s can visit local Teleafya Dispatch Centres, who will match them with medical profession­als available, he says. “Now more than ever, we need to bridge the gap between healthcare access and delivery by connecting local medical profession­als in each county with local patients, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic,” Chepkwony says. “Through the Teleafya App, we hope to build a network of medical care givers and patients to solve the health care crisis in Kenya.” Medical profession­als register on the app to offer their services in their respective counties, while patients with smartphone­s request for said services by logging onto the app. In June, at least 200 providers and more than 500 patients were actively on the platform. Chepkwony says Teleafya’s mission is to make healthcare accessible, especially to disadvanta­ged communitie­s. “Through our disruptive technology platform, we make it possible for people with limited mobility, such as new parents, time-strapped profession­als and the elderly, to still receive the excellent medical help they deserve,” he says. In the case of patients without smartphone­s, they are already partnering with existing shops, schools, pharmacies and churches to act as dispatch centres. The centres facilitate care between patients with no Internet connectivi­ty or smartphone­s but have a regular phone, while simultaneo­usly solving the congestion problem in hospitals and localising routine care that can be handled by certified medical profession­als. App co-founder and marketing director Dorothy Ogega says Teleafya is going to facilitate communicat­ion with people in mashinani. “Just like M-pesa, Teleafya will be that account that has everything about your health. As long as you have your phone, your health is in your hands, literally,” she says. Ogega says the app facilitate­s connection between a patient and medical care provider who are in close proximity to each other. A patient books on the platform, and depending on the workload of the caregiver, requests get accepted or rejected, which the patient monitors on the system and is able to request for an alternativ­e medical care provider. When the healthcare provider accepts the request, Teleafya hands over control to them, enabling the caregiver to consult with the patient through text, call or video. The app has also been on-boarding the Pandemic Integrated System for tracking Covid-19 suspects and Contact Tracing System. The system brings confidence to the community and workplaces by establishi­ng a return-to-work testing criteria for healthcare workers as well as private and public employees. The app is currently available for download on Google Playstore for Android users, while iphone compatibil­ity is currently in testing. RENT REPRIEVE Next to Hannah’s stall is a dusty path that leads to Njeri Ng’ang’a’s business. She specialise­s in beadwork, making table mats, keyholders, HANNAH NGUGI Compounded with the mass exodus after lockdown is people losing jobs. Many of the working class who lost jobs also started their own small businesses for survival, so I barely had any customers