“Which of you, if your children ask for a loaf of bread, will give them a stone? Or if they ask for fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!’’ Mathew 7:9-10
I am not a strong advocate for quoting religious texts in public discourse, but sometimes when there’s darkness everywhere, we resort to clutching at anything, whether as believers or non-believers, for the sake of providing a little light at the end of the long dark tunnel.
In those words in Mathew, a simple question is asked of parents. In the case of countries, the state automatically assumes the role of parents in this analogy, with the citizenry translating to its children. Therefore, when a starving-to-death citizen asks the state for bread, would the state offer a stone, or if they asked for fish, would the state offer a snake?
In the scriptures, the answer to these questions is an unequivocal no!
Unfortunately, in Kenya today, as absurd as it may sound, nothing is off the table. The citizenry may be served snakes and stones, because no one seems to care anymore. The life of individual citizens has been relegated and reduced to mean nothing, thanks to the unprecedented plunder of public resources which has reached monumental levels.
One is prompted to ask, when parents turn into beasts, what fate befalls the children?
When news broke that a section of Kenyans are facing life threatening drought, hunger and starvation – much as there had been predictions of tough times ahead especially in the arid and semi-arid areas – it came as a huge surprise to many since one of the main campaign pillars of the Jubilee government has been food security. In fact, food security features prominently within President Uhuru Kenyatta’s glamorous Big Four Agenda, and if one were to speculate what within the four pillars could translate into a quick win, then feeding Kenyans would be it.
Therefore billions of shillings were supposedly – I say supposedly because there is no empirical or other evidence indicating a corresponding bumper harvest – invested in irrigation projects, only for them to turn out to be the biggest and whitest white elephant projects. Then came the theft by well-connected wheeler-dealers of money meant to pay maize farmers especially in the Rift Valley, resulting in the near crippling of the National Cereals and Produce Board.
Going by all these indicators, there was no way the Jubilee government was serious about food security, thereby resulting in the current heartbreaking predicament faced by starving families in Turkana and elsewhere, where a meal a day has become the highest human aspiration.
Under these unbearable circumstances, one is reminded of the poignant if stinging words of Kenya’s eminent historian, Prof. Bethwell Allan Ogot, who succinctly remarked in one of his texts that, ‘‘Project Kenya is dead.’’
This is because there has never been a more befitting moment to confirm that Kenya is indeed a man eat man society, where instead of government working overtime to mitigate against the forewarned and imminent death by starvation of its citizens, the biggest preoccupation within the state has been grand corruption, the need for everyone to get their hands into the cookie jar.
56 years after Kenya gained flag independence from the British, the country is grappling with two self-contradictory realities, if one may call them that. On the one hand, billions of shillings are being stolen every day, suggesting that the country seems to have a bottomless reservoir of never ending resources, while on the other hand, Kenyans are starving to death.
The most bizarre bit of it all is that our people are dying not because of anything complicated, unpreventable or unpredictable, but because those mandated to prevent such disasters have absconded, in a lethal combination of sheer negligence, utter incompetence and indifference.
Our people are dying not because it is their time to die, but because we have decided that they should die, since it appears they are an inconvenience to us for as long as they remain alive.
We are killing them through sins of omission and commission, either by refusing to plan ahead and implement already tried and tested solutions to their predicament, or by stealing in the most blatant ways the resources meant to facilitate timely interventions against drought.
They say fish starts rotting from the head. Therefore as much as blame may be apportioned elsewhere, it first rests at the feet of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Cabinet, alongside county governments which aside from local interventions, should have raised timely alarm.
The death of a single Kenyan, made even worse if it happens for lack of food and water, is already one death too many. As Commander-in-Chief, protecting Kenyan lives should be the President’s highest priority. Someone should therefore whisper to him that starvation alone is enough to shred his legacy into tatters, because if Kenyans cannot eat, then what else matters?
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.