Busia border front line staff receive Personal Protective Equipment from European Union amidst COVID-19.

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The European Union (EU) Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue, in partnership with TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), visited the Busia One Stop Border Post (OSBP) – the border crossing point between Kenya and Uganda – to deliver Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) to the border authorities on the Ugandan and Kenyan side.

The delivery was witnessed by Kenya’s Ministry of Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr. Rashid A. Aman, PS Ministry of EAC Kevit Desai and his Ugandan counterpart Edith Mwanje, UgandaRevenue Authority Commissioner for Customs, Abel Kagumire, TMEA Chief Executive Officer (CEO)Frank Matsaert, TMEA Kenya Country Director, Ahmed Farah, TMEA Uganda Country Director, Moses Sabiiti and Busia County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri.

This is part of the EU’s wider support for mitigation measures against the spread of COVID-19 and continous safe trade in Kenya across all the Kenyan borders. Today’s symbolic handover will cover the needs of customs, immigration, security, and port health officials on both sides of the border for a period of 3 months.

Making his remarks at the event, EU Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue said: “Trade is the lifelineof the economy and many millions of both formal and informal jobs depend on it. By working together closely the Kenyan and Ugandan Governments are ensuring that trade can continue through the border posts in Busia and Malaba throughout this COVID-19 crisis. Government agents working in the front line are essential to the crossborder flow of goods and need to be properly protected. Today’s first delivery of PPEs displays the EU’s support to this.”

On his part, Kenya’s Ministry of Health CAS Dr. Rashid A. Aman thanked the European Union for their continuous support to the government’s efforts to fight COVID-19, further saying; “Since the first case of Covid-19 was announced in March, Kenya has since registered 11,673 confirmed positive cases as of 16th July 2020. Busia remains one of the hot spots for the spread of the virus. The PPEs beinghanded over to the Joint Border Management Committee will strengthen both Uganda and Kenyan governments measures of making our borders safe and open for trade. Given the vulnerability and exposure of the frontline workers to the virus, protection of all border personnel is paramount in ensuring they work in safe and optimal working conditions so that trade continues uninterrupted. As always, please wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands and sanitise. That is the only way to beat the disease.”

The European Union is the largest donor to the Kenya component of TMEA’s Safe Trade Emergency Facility (STEF) programme with a contribution of KES 600 million (EUR 5 million). STEF was launched to respond to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic which has hit East Africa’s border crossingpoints, causing some of the worst disruptions in history. The usually busy land borders are a main vector of human transmission from one country to another. In response, governments have adopted mandatory testing of border users at crossing points. Yet, crossing points have shortages of Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) for front line staff and there are frequent reports of border officials contracting the disease. Inadequate or no PPEs for frontline officers, especially for port health and security personnel, is causing delays in border clearance processes; for example, the Busia and Malaba crossing points continue to face long traffic queues of many kilometres on both sides of the border. The PPE’s include key items agreed in consultation with governments, port health authorities and advice from medical agencies at regional and international levels.

Today’s PPE delivery is part of a number of interventions that the EU is funding in Kenya to help ensure the flow of safe trade and protect critical front line staff. Other interventions funded by the EU under the STEF include: technology to enhance truck driver testing and tracking; the installation of smart gates at the border; the development and implementation of relevant protocols to enhance efficient and safe trade; supporting trade policy, standards and SPS; policy advocacy and improving ecommerce; and the development of safe trade zones to support formal and informal traders at the borders. This support is complemented by a grant from Ireland of more than KES 10 million focusing on the establishment of a Safe Trade Zone for female cross border traders in Busia. Other members of Team Europa, in particular the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland support TMEA activities across Eastern Africa region.

TMEA CEO, Frank Matsaert said that TMEA was committed to supporting the border authorities and the border users, to ensure medical compliant trade between adjoining States and the region. He noted that the support is critical to facilitate the safe continuation of trading activities and especially protecting livelihoods.