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Calls grow to address inefficient and polluting cooking fuels in Kenya






More than 20,000 Kenyans are dying every year due to the effects of inefficient and polluting cooking fuels used by families across the country, several reports have revealed, with millions more at risk of dying early.

Globally, the World Health Organization says that nine out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. The use of inefficient and polluting cooking fuel, such as charcoal and kerosene, is a primary driver of this alarming situation.

Ms. Anne Songole, CEO of the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya (CCAK), commented: “Inefficient and polluting cooking fuels are a silent killer in Kenya. An average of 400 Kenyans, the majority of whom are women and children, will die this week as a result of diseases attributed to household air pollution, according to WHO statistics. These diseases are avoidable. It’s time for us to wake up the scourge of inefficient and polluting fuels.”

Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

A recent in-depth study from Dalberg Global Development Advisors notes that 70% of Kenyan households in urban areas use firewood, charcoal, or kerosene as their primary cooking fuel.

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“Indoor air pollution from these inefficient and polluting cooking fuels is causing early deaths among affected populations. The most affected are women and children under five years who spend more time in the kitchen. They are affected by respiratory health complications such as pulmonary diseases, asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia, and respiratory tract infections, eye cataracts,” the report states.

Triple threat – health, environment, economy

The WHO has long-reported on the continued impacts of household air pollution, driven by cooking with inefficient and polluting fuels. In Kenya, as many as 8-10% of early deaths are attributable to indoor air pollution from charcoal and wood cooking alone; this excludes the unquantified but likely substantial negative effects of kerosene cooking on lung function, infectious illness and cancer risks, as well as burns and poisonings.


The urban Kenyan cooking fuel market is estimated to be worth Ksh 60bn – Ksh 80bn annually, but it remains dominated by inefficient and polluting fuels.

Charcoal (22%) and kerosene (29%) are prevalent in urban Kenya due to their wide availability and, traditionally, their relative affordability, despite the rise in prices of such fuels. Another factor in the widespread use of inefficient and polluting fuels has been a lack of awareness about safer and cheaper alternatives, such as LPG and bioethanol.

It is not just Kenya’s health system that feels the strain as a result of these cooking fuels; the environment is suffering greatly, due to greenhouse gas emissions, toxic particles and charcoal-driven deforestation.

According to Dalberg, Kenya loses 10.3 million m3 of wood from its forests every year from unsustainable charcoal and wood fuel use. At a time when a desperate drought is affecting so many Kenyans, the scale of deforestation in an already dry country is especially concerning, given its negative impact on food security and agricultural yields. Dalberg’s report also indicates that household biomass fuel use contributes more than 22 million tonnes of CO2 each year, equivalent to 30-40% of Kenya’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Economic Cost

Equally, the economic impact is also very significant. Last years WHO report explained that air pollution is leading to more days spent in hospitals and out of the workforce, with a financial impact that is “unmistakable but, like the health costs, often ignored”.

In many affected countries, the WHO notes that health-driven expenses as a result of dirty cooking fuels are expected to grow faster than GDPs, if nothing is done.

Kenya, for instance, loses KSh 200 billion each year as a result of premature deaths brought about by air pollution, according to a study by Global Policy Forum, which made the first major attempt to calculate both the human and financial cost of Africa’s pollution.

A different study by the University of Nairobi and Sweden’s University of Gotenburg suggested that the air in Nairobi is so polluted that it may be causing serious ailments, including heart and lung diseases as well as cancer. In Africa, air pollution kills 712,000 people every year compared with about 542,000 due to unsafe water, 275,000 due to malnutrition, and 391,000 due to unsafe sanitation, says the report.


Clean Cooking Association of Kenya (CCAK) brings together all stakeholders promoting efficient and cleaner cooking fuels by advocating for an enabling environment for increased awareness and adoption. When affected communities adopt cleaner cooking fuels for their primary use, the number of respiratory health complications and risks to environmental pollution will be reduced.


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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.

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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.


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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