Devolution powering transformation in Mandera
By Capt Ali Roba,
Despite systemic marginalization since independence Mandera is now charting a coyrse of resilience and transformation. That is the journey we embarked on at the advent of devolution in 2013.
In the firsr five years of devolution, we developed policies and initiated actions on many fronts. Their impact on the lives of our people have been transformative and far-reaching. These policies and programmes are the building blocks that will continue to empower residents of Mandera, restructure our local econony and guarantee definitive public service that is beyond reproach.
We identified crucial sectors such as road infrastructure, water supply, health and education that are fundamental for growth. We are not about lofty ideala and fads. Our policies remain focused on practical projects that will directly benefit residents of Mandera and transform their lives for the better.
To achieve our strategic goal, we have partnered with other organizations such as the Kenya Medical Research Institute(KEMRI), with whom we are working to build a cutting-edge regional research centre.
The centre will help in the development of effective disease prevention and control strategies. These synergies are designed to benefit the Kenya Medical Training College ans will be linked with our Teaching and Referral Hospital in Elwak and Mandera Town, as well as the planned Livestock Research and Veterinary training College. We will commit Ksh 500 million in the 2018/19 budget towards this research centre. Already KEMRI has been allocated 100 acres of land to put up the centre which is expected to serve the Horn of Africa region.
Before devolution, Mandera County held the inglorious record of having the world’s worst health indicators. When we came to office, the county’s Maternal Mortality Rate(MMR) stood at 3795 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to the national average of 488 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Out of the 53 health facilities we inherited, only three were operational. But even then, they were only operating at 10% capacity. We also inherited 154 healthcare workers from the national government, most of them unskilled.
To address this formidable challenge, we developed am investment strategy that is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, the national teproduction health polict and Vision 2030. The overall objective of the strategy was to accelerate the reduction of maternal, newborn and childhood morbidity and mortality. Besides increased investment in the health sector, the Mandera County Government has made maternal and neonatal child healthcare a top priority.
Regarding infrastructure, we constructed 24 kilometres of tarmac roads within Mandera Town and improved the road network in the county. These are historic developments in Mandera, whose benefits were immediately felt. For instance, journeys that previously took days or weeks are now taking hours. The national government has complimented this with the 150 kilometre road project between Rhamu and Elwak.
We have constructed 127 boreholes, opened up additional 153 trucking sites and built 21 water pans and dams. These projects now benefit 214,000 households across the county. Further, we have increased water production capacity in the county to more than 12 million cubic metres annually.
Our resilience was greatly tested during the first two years immediately after devolution, especially in matters security following repeated terror attacks. The insecurity at the time resulted in many non-locals migrating from the county, leading to a great deficit in skilled labour. But we have stayed the course. The issue of insecurity has been dealt with in conjunction with the national government, and our efforts to create a skilled local manpower base are already bearing fruit.
Interventions by the county government include targeted investment in tertiary institutions to produce skilled local manpower that is best-suited to the unique needs and circumstances of Mandera. The county has invested in a Teachers Training College that will produce graduates to fill that gap left by the exodus of non-locals. The first batch of teachers from the college will be absorbed by local schools this year. Similar interventions were initiated in the health sector. The county partnered with the Kenya Medical Training College to create skilled manpower to fill vacancies for the pisitions of nurses, clinical officers and technicians. These efforts have gone a long way in improving healthcare and service delivery. In addition we have expanded an Early Childhood Development and Education(ECDE) training college to lay a strong foundation for our children. We have also strengthened the Technical Training Institute and sponsored several students currently training un our facilities.
The County Government also set out to leverage pastoralist lifestyle in Mandera by transforming it into a viable economic way of life. The milestones so far are remarkable. Our dairy demonstration farm today has one of the country’s best livestock. Plans are underway to roll out this initiative to more farmers.
Further investment includes planned construction of a regional veterinary college and livestock research centre. This will bring services and availability of relevant information even closer to the pastoralist community in the North Eastern and Horn of Africa region.
Ali Roba is the Mandera County Governor.