East Africa is vaccinating for Covid-19. As we said on these streets before, the vaccination will reveal a lot about us.
Rwanda started vaccinating first, then Kenya, and Uganda. It mirrors the Ease of Doing Business Index for most of the recent years, with Rwanda coming first, Kenya second, and Uganda third.
Tanzania, Burundi, and South Sudan usually make up the bottom three. These three are not vaccinating yet. And Tanzania, until in recent weeks when Covid-19 started leaving a trail of destruction among its senior leadership, had been extremely shy about Covid-19. It is almost a year since it published any data on it.
These differences between the East African Covid-Fight Club elite, and the laggards, is even starker when you look at the social media pages of their ministries of Health, especially Twitter, in general, and specifically how they are reporting vaccinations and current data on infections.
The Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda Health ministries are verified, you know, the blue badge. Tanzania’s, Burundi’s, and South Sudan’s are not.
Because of Tanzania’s see-no-Covid-hear-no-Covid approach, there is almost nothing on it on its Health ministry’s page.
Burundi hardly has any Covid updates, and a lot of photos of many men, with a sprinkling of the odd woman here and there, in meetings or receiving things in boxes. Usually about 75 percent of them are without face masks. South Sudan’s Health ministry gave up updating their page mid-last year.
So, this is down to Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. Rwanda and Uganda have really pimped up their data presentation.
Uganda certainly takes the best infographic designer trophy. Rwanda, by a country mile, takes the cup for detail, with quite a bit of cockiness. They don’t you headline numbers, they list localities, and throw in tests done. Now they have a running tally, broken down to localities too, of vaccinations. Kenya and Uganda aren’t yet doing the vaccination numbers.
Kenya is a diligent updater, but has fallen behind in the aesthetics. The Health ministry page has a certain Soviet-era stodginess to it.
But perhaps most revealing, is the actual vaccinations themselves, and the set ups we are seeing. Kenya and Uganda, inexplicably, have the nurses vaccinating without gloves. The photographs of the first Kenyan vaccination were a scene from a market. Uganda is slightly less cluttered, but the initial scenes were like from a supermarket.
Rwanda is showing off a bit here, complete with some nurses doing it with mask and face shield, and there hasn’t been a single photo with a nurse vaccinating with bare hands. The chairs are arranged neatly according to colour and social distance markers, and there is always a photo of a vaccine-to-be signing what I understand is a consent form standing in front of masked fellows behind a computer.
Again, it mirrors broadly Rwanda’s orderliness and extreme structure, and the sometimes-delightful messiness and chaos of Kenya and Uganda.
So, there you have it. If you wanted to have a Covid job early, and go home without a barehanded nurse grasping your arm, then your odds were best in Rwanda, equal in Uganda and Kenya, and quite bad in Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. [email protected]