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BURINI: So much on smokers but why little about tobacco farmers?





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In a paradox, smoking has contributed to the progression of jurisprudence.

In August 1980 James Miller was squatting in a house in Birmingham, England. Miller lit a cigarette while in bed, fell asleep and woke up to find the mattress on fire.

He got up, went to the next room and fell asleep. He later woke up to find the building on fire and, because he didn’t have anything to help put out the fire, he just left it!

The then UK House of Lords convicted Miller of arson for his omission to take any steps to put out the fire or his failure in a duty of care to seek help.

Thus, the principle that an omission to act can constitute actus rues for criminal liability was established. All this from a cigarette!

Yet the same safety concerns from smoking remain ever present among us along with the immediate health concerns.

The double risk of having a heart attack, impotence in men, increased risk of osteoporosis in women, 50 percent risk of having a stroke, premature ageing of skin by 10 to 20 years and most horrifying, increased risk of cancer in lips, tongue, throat, voice box and oesophagus.

Although over the years the obvious cohort to be warned is the smokers, little focus has been given to the effects of tobacco on farmers, with the environment even taking a precedent.

The Tobacco Control Act 2007 has a provision promoting research and dissemination of information on the hazardous effects of tobacco production.

Shockingly, many tobacco farmers suffer from green tobacco sickness, a type of nicotine poisoning when nicotine is absorbed through the skin from wet tobacco leaves.

It is a high risk to farmers, especially if they harvest tobacco when it is wet.

Peculiarly, the symptoms the farmers experience are similar to those smokers have from nicotine addiction and withdrawal, which is rather ironic.

These include nausea, weakness, dizziness, abdominal cramps, and fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rate. Tobacco farming is thus an occupational health hazard.

The health risks from tobacco farming are one of the key factors making the industry less attractive for farmers.

We have agreed in law to protect the health of the individual considering conclusive scientific evidence implicating tobacco production.

How then are we progressively protecting tobacco farmers and assisting with their healthcare while we seek the economic benefits from tobacco?


These include: 0.04 percent of agricultural land is devoted to tobacco cultivation and in 2014; 8,991 metric tons of tobacco were produced in Kenya.

Some 17.14 billion cigarettes were consequently produced in 2016. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2014 report, tobacco accounted for seven percent of Kenya’s GDP.

To round it off, more than Sh1.7 billion is paid to farmers in Migori County annually, and they account for 70 percent of the tobacco produced in Kenya.

Tobacco is undisputedly a significant contributor to Kenya’s economy.

Education on protective measures such as avoiding handling wet tobacco, changing out of wet clothes saturated in moisture from the tobacco and wearing personal protective equipment is a start.

However, once the farmers are exposed and contract green tobacco sickness, the onus of their health cannot fall entirely on them when they are catering to an international multibillion dollar industry that generated USD 346 billion in 2016.

A significant solution would be to put policies in place requiring the leaf buyers to cater to the safety and medical needs of farmers.

Easy as that proposition sounds, the farmers first need buyers, which is the second cause of reduced interest in tobacco production.

With the significant and renewed partnerships between Kenya and the USA, this is the opportune time to revisit the Alliance One Tobacco Company as a buyer.

The USA company was the biggest tobacco leaf buyer in Kenya before its departure in 2016.

The company moved to Uganda and Zimbabwe arguing that the leaf is cheaper and of higher quality there.

Are these issues that can be addressed to renew this pre-requisite partnership? Or have we reached a point where tobacco farmers are better off pursing other cash crops?

After all, smoking kills 36 women in Kenya every week. Some 4,200 girls aged between 10-14 years and 119,000 15 plus year-old women are currently smokers.

Conversely, 14,300 boys aged between 10-14 years and 2,043,300 15 year-old plus men smoke cigarettes each day, making it an ongoing and dire public health threat.

Even worse, 120 men die each week from smoking. These numbers are significantly high for an avoidable cause of death.

Are the benefits of tobacco farming, production and export outweighing the risks that endanger farmers seeking an income and lives being lost?


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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.

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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

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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.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

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.

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