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Climate change is going to hold you tight and give you fever

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By THE CONVERSATION
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Half a century ago concerns about climate change, environment vulnerability, population density and the sustainability of earth systems reached a broad audience. This was clear from books like Silent Spring, published in 1962, and The Limits to Growth, published 10 years later.

These works influenced environmental activism at the time. They also publicised the growing scientific evidence that climate change was happening and was negatively affecting the earth.

But one piece of the puzzle remained missing: The impact of climate change on people, and specifically, on public health.

This changed at the beginning of this century with growing advocacy and gatherings such as the Conference of Parties and the publication of new research. Scientists began writing about the earth moving into a new era called the Anthropocene.

This is an era in which ecosystems are increasingly affected by human behaviour, and in which people are directly affected by the changes brought about by their actions.

The Anthropocene provided the impetus for renewed attention to health and the sustainability of all species. This new understanding led to new research across disciplines, to new interdisciplinary journals, and to policy documents on the impact of climate change on health.

No more disciplinary silos

Major new insights began to emerge. These included the fact that changes in weather patterns were affecting the behaviour of mosquitoes. This in turn was affecting our ability to control disease.

A raft of work also started to emerge on the effects of changing weather patterns, heat waves, and access to clean water on people’s health.

The next step along this journey was that academics came to realise that they can’t work in disciplinary silos. For example, health scientists realised that they needed anthropologists, sociologists and economists for a full understanding of the impact of climate change. The circle of knowledge has, as a result, begun to expand.

Parallel to these efforts, artists and advocacy groups have worked to keep climate change on international and national policy agendas. For example, artists have taken inspiration and drawn from scientific research in engineering, chemistry, biology, and the earth sciences to make their art.

In a first of its kind on the African continent, these efforts are reflected at a 10-day public and academic programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. The programme enmeshes art and science to provoke new thinking about water and how its politicisation affects public health.

Insights from different disciplines

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Extreme weather events, shifts in temperature variation and precipitation, and higher mean temperatures have dramatically affected human health and wellbeing.

From a health perspective, incremental environmental changes over time have undone decades of investment in the control of infectious diseases.

Many of these are waterborne and water-washed diseases, such as dysentery and scabies. They are result of poor personal hygiene because of inadequate water availability. These diseases, common throughout Africa, are often described as neglected diseases of poverty.

Scientists have started to explore the various affects in different settings in relation to different diseases.

For example, changes in temperature and rainfall have, in turn, changed the behaviour of vectors such as mosquitoes, flies and snails, with other factors complicating the spread of disease.

This means the settings that create the conditions for debilitating and potentially fatal diseases such as malaria, zika, and dengue have shifted. Thus mosquitoes have moved to new areas, introducing infection to previously unaffected people and certain animals.

Anthropologists have used a different lens to understand the impact. Research shows that inequality influences people’s exposure to vector-borne diseases and other environmentally sensitive infections. Gender, class and age have also emerged as points of vulnerability for disease and poor health in the context of climate change.

Climate change has, most notably, begun to affect weather patterns. Changes in precipitation and quantity, floods and droughts, and water insecurity are increasingly common as the planet warms.

Scientists have begun to track how this affects food production and other farming activities. This in turn affects people’s livelihoods and food security.

These changes are increasingly being followed not just by climate scientists, but also by academics from disciplines such as economics and politics.

This follows the realisation that the challenges of ageing infrastructure and water governance complicate finding solutions to the challenges posed by global warming.

Scientists in the spheres of social, biological, and physical sciences as well as the humanities and arts – need to continue to work on ways to interrupt disease transmission in the context of global warming.

They need to identify appropriate interventions where climate change affects health – and to come up with creative solutions that cut across narrow paths of thinking. Artists and civil society have a key role to play by creating narrative, visual and acoustic forms to support advocacy on issues of climate change, pollution, the ecology and environmental justice.

Lenore Manderson is distinguished professor, Public Health and Medical Anthropology, at the University of the Witwatersrand.

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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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