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60 years of Castro’s Cuba revolution

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By AFP
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On January 1, Cuba will mark the 60th anniversary of the communist revolution that brought the late and enigmatic leader Fidel Castro to power.

AFP talks to four Cubans about what the revolution still means to them.

For 97-year-old Alejandro Ferras Pellicer, the revolution is as alive now as it ever was.

He was the oldest of a group of 100 rebels, including two of his brothers, who joined Castro in an unsuccessful attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba in July 1953, an operation widely considered to have launched the Cuban revolution.

On January 1, 1959, Ferras Pellicer was an exile living in the United States as the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled his island homeland.

Ferras Pellicer left his wife behind to take “the first plane” to Havana.

“I arrived before Fidel,” who was still in Santiago, he said.

“I had to come to join the revolution here,” he told AFP from the tiny museum dedicated to the Moncada operation that he built in the capital. “I’ve never left the country” since, he states with pride.

When confronted by the Batista dictatorship, “revolution was necessary” because it was about “fighting for the future.”

Most of all, though, “the revolution was Fidel.”

The charismatic leader died in 2016.

His brother Raul had taken over as Cuba’s president from 2008 and ruled until earlier this year, when he passed the baton to the first non-Castro post-revolutionary leader, Miguel Diaz-Canel.

“For us, Fidel is not dead. We’re keeping him alive,” insisted Ferras Pellicer, because “we’re continuing the revolution” which “can last another 50 years” with public support. “As long as the revolution has the people, it is secure.”

Ana Fidelia Quiros was a two-time world champion and twice Olympic medalist in track and field.

She says she owes everything to the revolution, even her life. In 1993, she survived a stove explosion in her home that left burns over 40 percent of her body and killed the child she was expecting.

The revolution “represents everything for me. It’s thanks to the revolution that I was able to train as an athlete, become a better person and, most of all, allowed me to get through what could have been a fatal accident,” the former 800-meter runner told AFP.

Two years later, the “Caribbean Storm” won her first world title in Gothenburg, before repeating the feat in Athens in 1997.

Such a Lazarus moment “wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t live in a country like this one, where medicine is free.”

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Cuban veteran Alejandro Ferras Pellicer

Cuban veteran Alejandro Ferras Pellicer, 97, poses with a picture of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro at his personal museum dedicated to the Cuban heroes in Havana on December 18, 2018. – For him, the revolution is alive now as it ever was. PHOTO | ADALBERTO ROQUE | AFP

The revolution also helped make sport accessible “for everyone,” turning the island nation of 11.5 million people into an Olympic over-achiever, with 78 gold medals in the Summer Games.

Now 55, Quiros recognizes that “many things are missing” in the country but hopes that political reforms will “improve the economy” and help “Cuba regain its place” on the world sporting landscape.

The son of a communist leader, Vladimiro Roca has nonetheless been one of the regime’s fiercest critics for many years.

“The revolution died a long time ago. Now there’s a dictatorial regime,” the 76-year-old former fighter pilot told AFP.

Having originally followed in his father’s footsteps — Blas Roca was a Marxist theorist and parliamentary president from 1976-81 — the son grew disillusioned with the revolution.

“I fought for a democratic revolution and not for a family dictatorship, which is what has been established in Cuba,” said Roca, who was fired from his job in 1992 and sentenced to five years in prison in 1997 over his opposition to the regime.

“People are afraid” of repression, according to the dissident, who insists the revolution “will blow itself out.”

“First of all, the youth are fed up. They don’t believe in any of that, and then there’s not much support from abroad.”

“It’s possible that when (87-year-old) Raul Castro dies, everything will end because those following aren’t prepared to risk everything for something that has no future.”

Lourdes Garces was part of the Cuban humanitarian mission to Brazil that was abruptly ended last month after Cuban authorities reacted with indignation to criticisms from Brazil’s far right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro.

The 54-year-old doctor was part of previous humanitarian missions to Venezuela and Guatemala.

She says the revolution is “developing and can still offer a lot more.”

“Since its inception… it has shown solidarity in every sector of society, whether that’s in culture, education, sport or health.”

Her foreign missions meant she missed “many important events” in the lives of her two sons, but Garces is happy to have gained professional experience by “helping the poorest people.”

She refutes any accusations that Cuba has been using its highly trained medics to indulge in political indoctrination known as “white coat diplomacy.”

“We don’t interfere in politics or any other domain outside of health,” she insisted.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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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.

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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.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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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

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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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.

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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.

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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.

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