In March 2020, Kenya broke the News of its first Covid 19 case. A virus that was a threat to nations was now at home. Life changed to wearing masks, keeping social distance, abandoning of contact greetings, and washing hands to avoiding public places among other tough containment measures were set by the ministry of Health.
Schools, Businesses, places of worship, Political rallies, in person meetings, and Offices were all shut. A new dawn full of stress rocked as people were locked in their homes in fear of contracting the deadly virus.
The new normal hardened life, a situation that later became difficult to adopt and accept. People lost jobs as well as hope. Around this period, cases of mental health started to escalate and the disease was now becoming a reality to many. Open place markets and supermarkets were closed and further hardened people’s lives since they could not even have access to basic needs and food.
Having gained vast experience as a senior lecturer and a Deputy Director at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and a Kisii county CEC for roads, public works and transport, Dr. Walter Okibo Bichang’a embarked on a journey to impact lives positively amidst the terrifying pandemic.
Under the leadership of Kisii Governor James Ongwae, Dr.Okibo, who is a Bachelor’s Degree holder, a Master’s Degree holder and a Doctorate Degree holder spent his time on local media, visiting and helping people to accept and adopt the new reality.
In May, 2020 when Kisii had already confirmed it’s first case, Okibo toured Kisii Prisons where he donated food stuffs to prisoners. He spent a day talking to and encouraging them to continue adopting the new containment measures set by the Government to protect them.
On that visit, Okibo said “You are special people. Covid is real and let’s wash our hands, keep social distance and wear masks. I know you have families back at home, as you pray for your good health also remember them in prayers. We will continue to support you until we overcome this monster,”
Talking to Girls and Parents
By August 2020, students had already spent 5 months outside due to closure of schools and cases of teen pregnancies were reportedly rising at alarming rates. Okibo, in a company of other CECs, toured Marani Sub-county in efforts to educate girls on the effects of teen pregnancies.
This time Marani had already hit headlines on defilement cases. He spoke to young girls and parents on keeping safe amid closure of schools.
“Our girls are our future. It’s sad to hear that our girls are being defiled at a tender age. We want to protect them by all means possible. They are now out of school due to this pandemic; let’s guard them by not sending them out beyond 6pm. They should also stop walking alone in private places. Early pregnancies halt their studies. It’s our responsibility as a community to report defilement cases so that the perpetrators can face the law,” He told parents.
In partnership with other non-governmental organizations, they gave out sanitary towels to girls and women.
“I know the economy is getting harder and accessing a necessity such as these pads is a big challenge. We have brought you some, use them wisely and we will continue bringing more. Let’s pray that this pandemic ends so that our children can go back to school,” He advised.
By January 2021, people had lost their loved ones to the pandemic. A number of people including students had plunged into stress and depression. Schools too, were resuming and they had to concentrate on a bid to beat the syllabus. Combining the National Examination pressure, it emerged that some had already been hit with mental health.
Understanding the consequences of mental health, Okibo kicked off a mission of visiting school to encourage and talk to students on how to manage stress, depression and mental Health.
Though economic times accompanied by a long stay outside, hardened life and innumerable students dropped out of school due to stress caused by lack of school fees and basic needs. Armed with dozens of sanitizer and masks for donation, Dr.Okibo toured St Patrick’s Mosocho mixed secondary school, Cardinal Otunga Boys among other schools in Kisii County. Encouraging and urging the students to be optimistic ahead of their National Examination.
By this period, Okibo had already been transferred from the Ministry of Roads to the Ministry of Lands and Physical planning where he is currently serving as a County Executive Committee Member to date.