Kenya reported its first COVID-19 case on March 13.
Since then, the East African country has reported more than 41,000 infections and is one of only nine countries on the continent to have surpassed the 40,000 mark.
In efforts to curb the spread of the virus, the Kenyan government imposed various measures and restrictions, with some staying active to date.
Per guidelines issued by the World Health Organization, many Kenyans wear face coverings, observe hand hygiene and social distancing.
Nandi County, located in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province, also took further measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 within its borders.
One of these moves was the use of a call center to spread information to residents about the virus and also streamline service delivery as people were barred from working physically in offices.
Nandi County authorities had not foreseen the health pandemic that awaited the world when they launched the Call Center in late 2019, but were thankful they did once the virus arrived in Kenya.
The call center was assigned a toll-free number, 1548, which allows residents to reach out with information or tips or to seek the same.
The center served as the primary source of information for residents of Nandi County regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to ease the initial fear that gripped the public.
“1548 came in handy because we drove the agenda of sensitizing people about COVID19,” said Irene Chepkemoi, a Quality Analyst at the Nandi County Call Center. “This toll-free number was kind of declared a hotline for Rift Valley and Nandi County. From that time, people accessed information without going into offices so that somebody in whatever remote place at the comfort of their home could access any information via their phone without getting to offices, without coming to town, without going to their centers, and we thought that was a plus for us.”
Having worked at the Call Center for a while now, Irene is confident it played a huge role in demystifying the virus among residents and also equipping the public with the much-needed information to keep themselves safe.
“I could say the call center has come in handy because we have a lot of information that we give them at the comfort of their homes, and I could say so many people have been educated and this has helped to flatten the curve of COVID-19 in Nandi County and even in Kenya,” she noted.
On his part the Project Manager, Kipsaro Boit, hailed the impact that the call center has had since its launch, not just in the fight against COVID-19, but in other fields as well.
While he noted with pride that the call center became the hub of the county’s fight against the virus, he also highlighted some of the other successes that the center has had since it began operations.
“I would say that the call center has been a very impactful project that so far we are proud as a county that we managed to roll it out. And our people have really benefitted from it, and we are yet to stretch to its limits because we have just started, and we expect to do more with the call center,” said Boit.
He highlighted an instance where a farmer faced the risk of losing his cow that had just calved, but he managed to get assistance from county authorities due to the call center.
The farmer’s cow had developed complications deep in the night after calving, and with bad weather that night, the chances of the cow and its calf surviving were at a minimal.
Lucky for the famer, he had memorized the toll-free number and he called in to report his case. This call saved his animals as the county authorities dispatched a team of veterinary officers to handle the case.
With the success achieved so far, Boit is confident more counties could benefit from similar technologies.
“We want to encourage counties and entities that probably are serving people to actually look at this technology and embrace it because it is something that helps a lot of things. You may not provide an instant solution but at least the problem will have reached the people who can actually provide a solution to that,” he noted.