Coronavirus pandemic has changed the face of CSR in Kenya

For many years, companies have been spending millions of their profits visiting orphanages, participating in cleaning exercises, offering scholarships or funding youth and women groups among other noble programmes.

While these noble gestures have gone a long way in directly impacting the lives of ordinary Kenyans, more often than not, they go unnoticed to the wider public, tucked in annual financial reports of companies’.

This year, however, a majority of Kenyans have been beneficiaries of a corporate philanthropy in the fight against a virus that is ravaging broad swaths of the country.  

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Corporates have contributed overwhelmingly towards the purchase of face masks, testing kits, sanitizers and even Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for healthcare workers. 

When the pandemic struck the country earlier this year, health workers became the first line of defense against an invisible enemy. 

This war required a heart and a new kind of ammunition that is Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to arm them as they pushed forward. 

But a shortage of these precious materials and slow procurement processes especially at the county level had been continually hinderd progress until private organizations started making significant contributions to boost the countys’ healthcare arsenals. 

To date, the Safaricom foundation and the M-Pesa foundation have contributed a total ksh 51.5 million worth of PPEs ranging from KN95 masks, gowns and eye protectors to health care givers in counties across the nation. 

Dr. James Githinji of the Kiambu level 5 hospital says that shortage of PPEs that had haunted the hospital presented a moral dilemma for him and his staff of how exactly to attend to infected patients while at the same time being right at the virus’ crossfires.

“I don’t think a healthcare worker would ever leave a patient unattended regardless of the circumstances”, he says. 

The Kiambu Level 5 hospital which received nearly Ksh 2 million worth of PPEs is among the 25 county hospitals that have received PPE donations from the Safaricom foundation and also individual employees of the telco giant. 

Others are Busia, Mombasa, Meru, Kajiado, Baringo, Nakuru, Narok, Uasin Gishu, Makueni, Nyeri, Turukana, Muranga, Laikipia and Kericho among others. 

In Kericho County, Dr Bernard Kiprop says that before the Safaricom Foundation came through, sometimes his staff would be forced to fork back into their own pockets to purchase essential Personal Protective Equipment. 

But the Safaricom foundation isn’t doing this alone, various corporations including Equity, Absa bank and UAP old Mutual are also involved in Psycho-social support programmes for health care workers, seeing that the psychological ramifications of dealing with the virus could be profound. 

Corporations have even gone ahead and supplied informal areas with water for sanitation and financed cash transfers via M-Pesa to vulnerable communities; directly reaching out to those affected.

It is in times of crisis like this one that we have seen how companies look beyond customer numbers and profits and that shareholders appreciate the communities where their businesses operate. 

It has also demonstrated that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) if carefully coordinated can tackle the great challenges facing society to find solutions for social-economic problems. 

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