Uhuru's Oxygen Taskforce Draws Mixed Reactions

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and Health CS, Mutahi Kagwe
    President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and Health CS, Mutahi Kagwe.
  • The government on Thursday, April 8 unveiled an Oxygen Task Force in a bid to formulate plans and strategies to mitigate the ongoing oxygen shortage crisis in the country

    According to the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the lack of oxygen had deteriorated adding that it was time for the government to generate a plan to deal with it. 

    The announcement drew mixed reactions, many of them targeted at Kagwe's boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta. A majority of Kenyans were skeptical and termed the task force as a waste of already depleted resources. 

    "Oxygen Taskforce has identified issues of service, maintenance & operations and pipping as a requirement, which we are currently working on to address with partners such as the World Bank and the French Government, the government's statement read in parts.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta receiving Covid-19 vaccine on March 26, 2021 at State House, Nairobi.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 26, 2021 at State House, Nairobi.

    However, despite the labeled progress so far from the task force, Kenyans remained unsupportive of the idea it's idea. 

    “Government and ministries already have well laid down mechanisms of dealing with such eventualities. You wonder why then do we need a task force to solve oxygen issues,” one Kenyan lamented. 

    Others termed the decision as ill-timed questioning how the government could have two task forces handling a similar challenge. 

    The coronavirus task force which was formed when the disease was first announced in Kenyan will now be working closely with the Oxygen Task Force in an effort to ensure a consistent supply of oxygen in hospitals. 

    Aspiring politician Alinur Mohamed weighed in on the matter saying that task forces in Kenya exist only on paper but nothing tangible comes out of them. He asked Kenyans to be skeptical about the outcome of the newly formed task force. 

    In Kenya, the only time we get to hear about task forces like the Oxygen Task Force is on the day they are created and the daily news about a mega scandal breaks out. So let's manage our expectations folks,” Alinur reacted.

    Others joined in by saying that Uhuru’s government is acting strangely considering that the disease has been around in the country for over a year now. 

    “Kenya's government solution for any problem oscillates between Taskforce and Committee. Nothing tangible ever comes from the dimwits leading them. What's an Oxygen Task Force anyway? You had 1 year to prepare and we were still caught off guard! That is after stealing billions,” Thomas Mwangi complained on Twitter. 

    “MOH and the government, in general, are acting like Covid hit Kenya Last month for the first time ever.  Now they even have an "Oxygen Taskforce" that is "assessing the infrastructure and economies of scale per hospital to address the situation," Matei Lynn remarked. 

    Others also questioned the purpose of the task force in relation to mismanagement of funds saying that the government often responds by wasting additional resources to investigate a failed task force. 

    According to them, task forces are breeding ground for the rich who often use their privileges of accessing the government to steal funds. 

    “Should money be lost through the Oxygen Taskforce, GoK will form another task force to investigate the Oxygen Taskforce,” Adrina Ouma stated.

    “This country called Kenya always creates problems to come up with a task force to do clean money laundering. Now, why do we need an Oxygen Taskforce surely because they'll be paid in the end...If they mess, a task force will be formed to investigate them. Kenya is cursed,” Ouma added. 

    According to the government, Kenyans are hoarding over 20,000 cylinders in their households and that each oxygen cylinder is estimated to cost Ksh40,000. 

    The government also recently announced that the demand for oxygen in healthcare facilities had become overwhelming as the number of Covid-19 patients in the ICU also continues to rise. 

    It is for this reason that the Ministry of Health formed a task force to address the oxygen shortage.  

    Health CS Mutahi Kagwe addresses journalists at Afya Centre, Nairobi in March 2020
    Health CS Mutahi Kagwe addresses journalists at Afya Centre, Nairobi in March 2020