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Danger in the fields: Discarded bombs maim Isiolo locals

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By VIVIAN JEBET
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What had started as just bad day for John Ndung’u after being sent away from school for arriving late turned tragic when an explosive device belonging to a scrap metal dealer who had visited his home exploded.

His father and the scrap metal dealer died on the spot while Ngung’u was left with painful scars that have affected his education.

The 19-year-old teenager recounts how, on the fateful day in 2010, he woke up, took breakfast and bid his father, mother and siblings’ good bye and rushed to school since he was late. By then he was a standard four pupil at Elsa Ntirim Primary School.

The family lived in Elsa Ntirim, a village in Isiolo which borders Meru County.

The boy, the seventh born in a family of nine, while at school, was sent back home since he was late.

“I then rushed back home after I was sent back for arriving a bit late,” he recalls.

He did not know that would be the last time he saw his father alive.

When he got home at around 9am, Ndung’u found a scrap metal dealer in their compound. He wanted to buy scrap metals. His father, mother and four siblings were outside.

The innocent scrap dealer was carrying some scrap items, one of which was an explosive. He might have collected it from the nearby military training ground, probably left behind by soldiers from the School of Infantry (SOI) in Burat ward, Isiolo County.

His mother had gone to their store to collect some metallic containers for sale.

“The dealer innocently hit one of the metals he had collected, and it exploded. I blacked out,” the 19-year-old recalls.

His father and the scrap metal dealer died on the spot. The explosion prompted the soldiers, whose camp is nearby, to rush to the scene. According to Ms Nyaruai, they collected the pieces of the explosive and left without a word.

Her mother rushed him to hospital and, days later, she buried her beloved husband in their compound.

Ndung’u, now a form one student at Tumbori Secondary School in Meru County, was hospitalised at Isiolo Referral Hospital and was in a comma for two months.

Ms Ann Nyaruai, his mother, 64, insists that Ndung’u, then aged 10, was a very energetic and determined boy who had bought himself two rabbits which multiplied to 150.

From the day of the explosion, Ndungu’s life changed. His health was affected and he is still suffering 10 years down the line.

He woke up from the two-month comma and stayed in the hospital for a while. The family had not broken news that his father had died. After being discharged from the hospital and shortly after arriving home, he spotted a grave in their compound.

“That is when I gathered courage and told my son that his father had died from the explosion. He was devastated,” said his mother.

Now, the 19-year-old says he is still psychologically traumatised. He sometimes misses school due to lack of fees and poor health.

He suffers from fatigue, chest and limb pains. He is also unable to walk for long distances.

“There are times when I stay at home for two weeks, missing school because I’m sick. But I thank God I survived the explosion,” he adds.

The family now wants the government to intervene and help Ndung’u get necessary treatment to remove the remaining metallic substances in his body. They also want to be compensated.

Ms Nyaruai’s effort to seek redress from military officials at the camp proved futile. She claims she was chased away by soldiers manning the gate when she went to ask help from the army to settle her son’s hospital bill.

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“The area is a food basket for Isiolo town. A majority of residents are farmers who are often disrupted by the military activities,” Ms Nyaruai said.

Several people have died, acquired permanent disabilities, been injured, suffered burns, developed hearing problems while others have been left with scars after unknowingly touching, playing with, carrying or hitting uncollected military ordnances in the area.

The ordnance abandoned by soldiers not only ruined Ndung’u’s dream of becoming a doctor but has also caused misery to many families in Kakili, Maili Saba, Maili Tano, BBC and Elsa Ntirim areas.

Ms Monica Athbital, a mother of four, vividly recalls how her life changed for the worse.

When she moved to Kakili village years ago, she hoped to make a decent living by engaging in farming since the area is very fertile.

Apart from farming, she occasionally engages in charcoal burning to fend for her young family since she is the sole bread winner after her husband deserted them.

One day, while she was fetching firewood at a nearby thicket, she claimed to have heard a gunshot and a bullet buzzed close by, missing her by luck.

While she was trying to contemplate what happened, she heard a second gunshot.

She next woke up at Isiolo Referral Hospital after a Good Samaritan intervened. A skull X-Ray revealed that a bullet had lodged in her skull.

She was later operated and the bullet removed, but she developed a hearing problem till date.

Mr Ibrahim Hussien, another victim, sustained injuries on his hand, legs and his private parts after a scrap metal dealer unknowingly sold him a bomb, which detonated as he went on with his daily activity as a blacksmith.

Mr Hussein decried the government’s failure to compensate victims, saying nobody seems to pay much attention despite cases of death being reported.

He said the army does not even cater for treatment.

There is also a tug-of-war over encroachment between the military and locals, with both factions claiming ownership.

But SOI Commandant John Warioba denied claims of military abandoning live explosives, saying soldiers do not fire bombs while training in the area but only fire small arms (rifles).

“When we want to do firing of bombs, we go far to Lalesoro, Samburu County; we don’t do any firing of high trajectory weapons. We have nothing to do with their allegations,” said the commandant.

He also maintained that no victim had complained or reported the matter to the military base.

On alleged encroachment, Mr Warioba said the military has clear boundaries with title deeds to prove ownership, adding that the matter is being handled by the National Land Commission (NLC).

“We have had two sittings with NLC on the same and they are yet to finalise on the issue, I cannot comment more,” the military official said.

Isiolo Governor Mohamed Kuti said there is need to have a thorough enclosure and relocate the military bases in Isiolo to isolated areas since the town is rapidly growing.

Dr Kuti held that there is tension between communities and the military since they are expanding their land and some bases are even claiming areas very close to the growing town.

“We have heard explosions, people maimed, serious injuries and people losing their limbs in areas where the military practices with live explosives and bullets. There is an urgent need to address the issue of explosives abandoned by both our army and the British army,” Mr Kuti said.



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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.

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.

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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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