Medical officers attend to a child rescued from a building that collapsed in Tassia, Embakasi East in Nairobi on Friday. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]
It was a race against time. All hopes were on the drilling sounds by the Kenya Defence Forces under their Disaster Response Unit and a team of engineers. They had been working for more than 36 hours and were yet to reach the bottom of the building where majority of victims are believed to be trapped.
By yesterday evening, five people had been confirmed dead and 26 were still believed to be trapped inside the building that collapsed in Tassia on Friday morning. Among the missing are a group of children who had gone to play video games at a cyber café within the building.
Venny Gechemba’s two children Frank Kerosi and Ezra, both under 10 years, are among those suspected to be in the cyber café. She described the wait as hell on earth. She clutched her hair and openly wailed as counselors who had come to debrief the victims struggled to hold her.
“I cannot eat. I cannot sleep. I just want my babies,” she said amid sobs.
SEE ALSO :Robbers paradise: Tassia car owners no longer at easeIrene Keino paced up and about, her eyes swollen with tears. She said she is still haunted by the loud bang and rising dust she saw when the building sank. Her daughter was inside the building, visiting her friend.
For Felistas Sawanga in Kakamega, the call came slightly before 9am. One of her sons was calling to inquire if she had heard about her other son Mark Akalla, who was staying in the doomed building.
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She called Mark immediately but the call went unanswered. She took a bus and describes the journey to Nairobi as the longest she has ever had to take.
“My heart was beating fast… I was praying, telling God not toallow my heart to stop… nothing prepares you for that kind of news. Even now, my body is still shaking, and my heart is beating as if it is breaking…” she said.
SEE ALSO :Four dead in Tassia building collapseMark was staying with his cousins Lenson and Sharon Mukama, and all of them are believed to be inside the building.
There was so much tears. From husbands who could not trace their wives and children, from preachers like Erastus Muli who had to hug and hold members of his flock who were losing faith in God, from relatives who had kept vigil the whole night and hopelessly watched as voices that had previously cried for help, went silent.
“Yesterday, we could hear people crying inside the building. Today, there is nothing. We are wondering if good news will come out of the rescue mission,” said Ian Nyaosi, whose nephew was in the building.
KDF officers revealed that it had been a difficult operation. When the building sank, all the floors caved and the ground floor is partly submerged.
“We had to drill a hole from the top to create space that was big enough for an officer to be thrown in to assess the situation. From there, we had to wiggle through the metal and dust, drill more holes to peep through to see if there were people trapped in individual rooms,” said one officer.
SEE ALSO :Four dead and scores trapped in ill-fated buildingHe said the team was divided into groups. There was a team with trained sniffer dogs looking for signs of life. There was another one using a portable trapped person locator machine while others were on standby to see if they could locate victims.
Outside, neighbours huddled talking in low tones. The reality that they were staying in buildings that could collapse anytime from now sank in. Two years before, another building had collapsed in an area called Quarry, a few metres away from the one that collapsed on Thursday. Surrounding the collapsed building was a tall building that goes to ten floors and has more than 100 households.
“A one bedroom house here is about 4,500 shillings. It is cheap and access to the road is easy, so people like this area,” said Francis Omollo, who has stayed there for three years.
Plaster and paint
He admits that there are many days when a crack would appear on the wall, but the owner always sweeps into action, plasters it and paints it, temporarily erasing fears among tenants.
On Wednesday, the rain had poured in a fury, and some of the people who escaped from the building said they felt a slight tremor. They assumed it was because of strong winds. None of them imagined it could have been a sign that the ground beneath was shifting.
Yesterday, as the night drew closer and the heavy hanging clouds started to drizzle, the officers slowed down the rescue operation. Rain, they said, meant danger due to use of electric equipment. The waters would also cause the rubble to be loose, meaning they had to tread with extreme care. Lack of sufficient equipment was also a hindrance since they were only using one crane.
“If we had more machines, we would have definitely worked faster,” said an officer.
John Wanjala watched helplessly, muttering a prayer. His mother and sister were trapped. Approach of night meant a possibility of yet another night of anxiety and tears.
Tom Mboya from the Kenya Counseling Association said most of the family members who could not trace their loved ones were going through a hard emotional time.
“More counselors need to come out in large numbers and offer counseling services to the affected families,” he said.
Yesterday four people were rescued. According to James Wanyoike, Assistant County Commissioner Embakassi East Sub-county the overnight operation went through to the morning hours lead by the Kenya Defence Forces Disaster response unit in collaboration with engineers at sight.
‘’The team involving the St John ambulance, Kenya Red Cross, the County Fire Department among other stakeholders have played a crucial role in the rescue efforts,’’ he said.
As of yesterday evening 33 people had been rescued from the debris that was still being drilled and pulled by cranes on sight.
Mr Wanyoike said yesterday 18 people were rushed to Mama Lucy Hospital, 16 were discharged while two – a mother and a child – are still at the hospital.
Fourteen others were rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital, seven were were treated and discharged while six are still admitted there.
The commissioner said they could not ascertain the number of people still trapped under the debris. ‘’The house that housed 57 units was not fully occupied,’’ he said. The identity of the owner of the building is yet to be established.
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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.
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.