Timely COVID-19 Testing of Mombasa Port Truckers Helps Reinvigorate Economies
Nairobi – Thousands of truck drivers across Kenya have been tested for COVID-19 by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) since July, as part of a broader effort to reinvigorate regional economies impacted by COVID-19.
Billions of dollars’ worth of goods begin the final leg of their in-land journey to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo aboard transport trucks originating at the sprawling port of Mombasa in southeast Kenya. The drivers were identified early on as a high-risk group for the spread and transmission of COVID-19. This, combined with border closures and other mobility restrictions, brought much of the trade in the region to a grinding halt.
IOM sees the integration of COVID-19 testing and other health measures into border management systems as critical to reanimating national and local economies and blunting the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
In July 2020, IOM conducted 2,570 tests at the Malaba and Busia One Stop Border Points with Uganda in an effort to clear a line-up of trucks stretching up to 90 km back from the border. With the support of the Danish International Development Agency, IOM has, as of 23 October, tested over 14,200 drivers moving freight out of East Africa’s largest port, bound for nations across East and Central Africa and the Horn of Africa.
“While the pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to mobility and cross-border trade, we must ensure that there is a continuous flow of economic activities while putting first the safety of people involved in the process,” said IOM Kenya Chief of Mission Dimanche Sharon.
IOM deployed medical staff, lab technicians, data officers and a semi-automated Thermo Fisher testing system to the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital, enabling the testing of up to 400 samples within a day, significantly reduced the turn-around time for test results to between 24 and 36 hours. This is an important consideration for drivers under pressure to deliver their goods as quickly as possible while negotiating a myriad of health-related border mobility restrictions enacted since March in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
“Previously, I have had to wait up to two weeks for my turn to cross the Kenya-Uganda border,” said a Mombasa-based Kenyan truck driver named Rashid. “My certificate expired in the process, since the validity period is 14 days, and the experience was not pleasant as I had to be tested again spending more money and time at the border. I am hopeful that the testing for COVID-19 in Mombasa will help me obtain the clearance and transport the goods faster.”
IOM Kenya has also conducted infection, prevention and control training for COVID-19 benefiting more than 200 frontline workers at various Points of Entry (PoEs) and provided personal protection equipment for 27 POEs, including Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
“With the support of our international partners, we will continue to fight against COVID-19 alongside the Government of Kenya until it’s fully eradicated,” said IOM’s Sharon.