Attend church, go to a chosen place for a sumptuous meal, then gulp down the drinks that appease the throat. Then more indulgence, more merry-making, more interactions, until the day ends. That is the ideal Christmas plan for many.
But things don’t always go according to plan. Mishaps can plague the big day, which may cause agony or negate the festive mood altogether.
A number of things have gone wrong on past Christmas days in Kenya and abroad.
Christmas Day 2014 was a sad one for a family that lost five members after their car veered off the road and plunged into a dam in Migori County. The driver, Ms Jane Kavene, was trying to avoid a muddy stretch on a road she was driving on for the first time. Last Christmas, a traffic police officer died after being run over by a 52-seater bus that ordinarily plies the Nairobi-Githurai route, which was carrying passengers to Kisumu. The brakes failed and the officer, who was trying to stop it, was not aware of the malfunction, leading to the tragedy that left passengers injured. Police boss Joseph Boinnet said it has become “almost predictable” that accidents will surge over Christmas and reminded Kenyans to never drive while drunk.
2. Food-related complications
It was a Christmas to forget for one family in Uganda’s Mbale district last year when four children from one family died after eating poisoned food for supper, with their parents being hospitalised. Food is synonymous with partying and the incident will be a permanent reminder of how it can make people vulnerable.
Moreover, the desire to over-indulge during Christmas is suspected to be one of the reasons why the number of heart attacks is highest on Christmas Eve in Sweden. Researchers who analysed 238,014 heart attacks found out that the risk of having an attack on Christmas rises by 40 per cent on December 24 of every year. They released their findings early last week.
The first criminal case filed at the magistrate’s court in Kerugoya in 2013 was about a Christmas death. Duncan Muthee Kethi was the suspect. Prosecutors said he had gone to drink alcohol at Kariguini Bar on Christmas Day 2012 with his friend. Then his friend deliberately poured beer, which led to a confrontation during which he fatally injured him. In May 2013, Mr Muthee was sentenced to 30 years in jail for manslaughter. His argument that they were both drunk could not sway even the High Court when he appealed against the 30-year jail term. The penalty should be enough to slam the brakes on anyone who would want to harm another in drunken stupor.
Criminals know too well how the festive mood makes people drop their guard, and the possibility of Christmas Day being ruined by robbers is not too remote.
According to Mr Tony Sahni, the CEO of security firm Securex, carjacking is among the common crimes that happen around Christmas time.
Mr Sahni advises that if anyone is visiting a new area during Christmas, they should learn the crime trends in that place.
“For instance, locations that have been troublesome in Mombasa in the past include Kisauni, Nyali, Likoni and Old Town. It is not advisable to walk alone at night in these areas. Try to blend in with the local crowd as opportunistic thugs often look to prey on foreigners,” he says.
5. Accidents at recreation spots
In neighbouring Uganda, there were nine deaths on Lake Albert on Christmas Day 2016, resulting from the capsizing of a boat that was carrying merrymakers who were going to watch a highly anticipated football match. While that was happening, a young couple in Russia had it rough when a rope-assisted jump over a frozen River Tom turned tragic. They suffered severe injuries.
Kenya Red Cross communications manager Noellah Musundi told Lifestyle that the society’s staff will be ready to assist in case of such mishaps. “The Kenya Red Cross is always on standby to serve the nation and will continue to provide its humanitarian services throughout the festive season,” she said. “Our emergency responders will be on standby to provide all the necessary help in case of any disaster or emergency.”
In December 2014, a resident of Nairobi’s Komarock estate, who preferred to be identified only as Martin, attended a party where some biscuits were served. He took three of them. He told Lifestyle that he kept feeling dizzy as he continued eating, not knowing what was amiss.
On reaching his house, he was all a mess.
“My wife gave me water to shower. After the shower, I literally ate all the food in the house, and I felt as if the world was turning upside down. I tried drinking water and milk but there was little effect. I had to be taken to hospital where I was injected with intravenous fluids. I came to my senses the following day,” he said.
Counsellors have been urging parents to be particularly cautious about in-house parties their children attend on Christmas Day and other festivities, as there is high risk of drugging that may lead to rape.
7. Domestic disagreements
Given the expectations people have for Christmas, they may turn violent when things don’t go their way. Christmas Day 2015 is a case in point, when a 39-year-old man in Mwiyala village in Kakamega County hit his wife to death in a quarrel over meat.
Besides, the things people do or fail to do on Christmas have led to divorces, as evidenced in a case finalised at the High Court in Mombasa in August 2014. The husband told the court that on Christmas Day 2011, his erstwhile wife chose to stay at her rural home rather than stay with him, which he interpreted as a sign of disengaging.
Marriage counsellor Jennie Karina told Lifestyle in a past interview that one way to avoid such disagreements is by having a working festive season plan. “Couples ought to sit down and agree what they expectations are, family expectations and how to meet those expectations,” she said.
“As power goes off, someone at Kenya Power is working overtime, on Christmas Day,” tweeted lawyer Mugambi Nandi on Christmas Day 2011.
“Kenya keeps it winning. Christmas morning and no power in so many places. The number of different ways my own country assaults me!” ranted Crystal on Twitter on Christmas Day 2014. Well, all the best plans for the day may actually need a nod from the electricity distributor.
Last Christmas was a sad day for an elderly couple in New Port Richey in Florida, United States, as a house went up in flames. The local fire rescue chief told Fox News that the source of the fire was a Christmas tree that had old lights on it. “Don’t leave your tree lights on when you leave the house. And if you have a live tree, be sure to keep it watered really well,” says a Fox advisory accompanying the report.
In the lead-up to last year’s Christmas, the Nairobi-Nakuru highway was heavily packed with cars, with motorists spending hours on the route. Naivasha head of the police Titus Mathuku said it was due to “unusual heavy traffic” by commuters headed for Christmas celebrations.
“I want to encourage all Kenyans to plan their travel schedules properly. Proper planning will ensure that you do not have to travel on the busiest days, getting into traffic snarl-ups and then taking the sort of shortcuts that land you in trouble with the law,” says Mr Boinnet.
11. Failure of technology systems
Mobile banking service M-Shwari, which allows for saving cash and taking loans through mobile phones, was offline the whole day last Christmas — meaning many could not access cash when they needed it. “An outage led to customers being unable to access services from 10pm on December 24, 2017,” read part of the message that Commercial Bank of Africa, the co-owner of M-Shwari, posted to announce a return of services on December 26.
Another famous technology failure happened on Christmas Day 2014 when Xbox Live and Sony PlayStation networks went offline, leaving millions of gamers — who had planned to mark Christmas by having fun though electronic games — high and dry.
Wearing new clothes on Christmas can never run out of vogue. But what if your new garment is so small or so big as to embarrass you for the rest of the day?
Various blogs call for physical shopping compared with doing it online. They also advocate pre-testing a garment to lessen the chances of being disappointed when it is worn on D-Day.
The Kenya Meteorological Department’s five-day forecast says Christmas Day will be punctuated by sunny intervals throughout the country.
“From Monday to Wednesday, the county is likely to experience mainly sunny intervals. The rainfall is expected to be of moderate intensity but it might be heavier on Saturday and Sunday,” says the weatherman with regard to the Nairobi region, meaning some garments may not be compatible with the weather that day.
13. Failed sales initiatives
Some businesspeople are usually waiting for Christmas Day to make top dollar, but it does not always happen. Photographers, for instance, have for the past couple of years been recording reduced earnings as smartphones become the preferred mode of preserving memories. That could mean a hungry Christmas for many. “There have never been so many photographs taken, but photography is dying,” veteran London-based photographer Antonio Olmos told The Guardian in December 2013.
You have a family looking up to you for Christmas plans but no salary to facilitate that. Can Christmas get any worse than that? In South Africa, employees of the cash-strapped state airline face that possibility. Salaries that are normally paid on December 21 and 22, says the Mail and Guardian, will this month be paid on December 27. It makes a case for saving for festivities.
15. Murder and terror attacks
The carnival mood that spreads all over the globe may just be the ideal atmosphere for criminals to perpetrate crimes. Christmas Day 2005 had such an occurrence in Trans Nzoia County. That evening, armed persons raided the house of Tom Chepot and killed his wife, his brother-in-law, his nephew and three other guests. Mr Chepot survived narrowly, and the motive of the attack puzzled police.
Terrorists also consider Christmas as a prime day to attack, and last year the Federal Bureau of Investigations in the US arrested a man who planned to unleash terror in San Francisco on Christmas. Everitt Aaron Jameson, then aged 26, described his attack plan to an undercover FBI agent who he believed was a senior leader of terror group ISIS.
The Constitution orders police to ensure any arrested person is taken to court within 24 hours. But because Tuesday and Wednesday will be public holidays, anyone who flouts the law from tomorrow will easily spend Christmas behind bars.
You may crave a quiet Christmas but the final word could come from that neighbour with a new music system, who may have happened to invite scores of guests. In a South African town called Evander Dam, local authorities have passed by-laws prohibiting sale of alcohol and loud music within the residential area this Christmas. “The Bulletin (a local publication) received several complaints regarding noise, pollution and people relieving themselves in public,” says a Facebook post.
Given the erratic supply of water in the cities, the risk of travelling far while leaving taps open is high. A message circulating on social media, urging Kenyans to ensure taps are closed before travelling, has resonated with many. An unmitigated running tap on Christmas Day might mean a flooded house and ruined household items.
19. Overstretched eateries and bad food
Some eateries will receive more buyers than others, and that may lead to a situation that happened in the United Kingdom last Christmas, where a Tesco, a popular retailer, delivered turkeys that were rotten, meaning many did not enjoy their lunch that day. “Some reported that the turkeys were so foul smelling they were forced to bin them before even putting the birds in the oven,” reported the Telegraph.
Some candidates who sat this year’s KCPE and KCSE might have a different Christmas this year, especially if they posted poor results. Family gatherings will only magnify the extent of underperformance and some might feel embarrassed to be part of them. “The problem with ability expectations is that children have no control over their ability. Children are born with a certain amount of ability and all they can do is maximise whatever ability they are given,” parenting psychologist expert Jim Taylor advises in a post on psychologytoday.com. “If you want your children to be successful, instead of setting ability and outcome expectations, you should establish effort expectations, over which they have control,” adds Dr Taylor.
About 800 Nigerians seeking to fly from London to their native country for Christmas last year were treated to a rude shock as flights from Gatwick Airport were cancelled. In a case that emphasises the need for early booking, the travellers found themselves spending Christmas at the airport after Nigerian airline Med-View cancelled flights, citing technical problems.
22. Discovering a cheating partner
On Christmas Day 2016, research agency Illicit Encounters revealed that hundreds of married people in the UK flocked various dating platforms to communicate with and arrange dates with people they had met online.
The revelation was a disclosure that, whether in marriage or dating phase, Christmas provides a litmus test for relationships, and on the internet there is a plethora of stories about people who discovered that their partners were unfaithful on Christmas Day. Last Christmas, for instance, a 21-year-old man committed suicide in Kitale Town after quarrelling with his girlfriend due to a man she had interacted with during a show by Ugandan musician Jose Chameleone on Christmas Eve.
23. Children going missing or being preyed on
Because of the crowding at social places, it is not uncommon for children to wander away from their guardians on Christmas. Also, crooks may want to take advantage of children’s vulnerability. “Children are often seen as soft targets for opportunistic criminals, and this threat is further heightened by the fact that our young ones are home for a prolonged period over the school holidays,” says Mr John Ogutu, a senior operations manager at Securex.
24. Congested recreation spots and stampedes
You are most definitely not the only fan of the spot you plan to visit for your Christmas Day outing. Public beaches in Mombasa have over the years been packed to the brim with merrymakers.
Mr Daniel Costa Francis, the managing director of travel firm Transtrek Safaris, says it is better to visit places like Mombasa during the off-peak season. “You will get value for money. The same amount of money you may be willing to spend in packed hotels and cities can be used for a greater value elsewhere,” he says. With crowding comes the risk of stampedes, as happened on Christmas Day 2015 when a scare arose at Disney World in Florida. People ran in different directions fearing a gun attack, only to learn later that it was a false alarm.
When you are away celebrating with your folks at the countryside, someone could be making away with your possessions.
Businesswoman Hellen Wambui learnt that the hard way. As she closed her salon to go enjoy Christmas in 2015, someone broke into it and stole her items. One Christopher Mutunga Muinde could later be found with some of the stolen items and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Mr Sahni, the Securex CEO, advises people to ensure there is someone keeping guard when they are away.
“Using technology that can be monitored and controlled remotely might help you sleep better while on holiday,” he says.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.