Several people have reportedly died of hunger-related complications in Tiaty, Baringo County, while thousands of others face starvation as the ongoing drought takes its toll.
Kositei sub-location chief Jack Ronei said deaths linked to hunger have been reported in Kamusuk, Kositei and Seretion, where four people have died.
He described the famine situation as dire and called for urgent distribution of relief food to avert more deaths.
“Hundreds of livestock have also perished due to lack of water and pasture,” said Mr Ronei.
Other badly hit areas are Chematony, Tobereruo, Panyirit, Kopoluo, Kadeli, Korio and Katikit.
Affected families are now surviving on a wild fruit locally known as sorich, which has to be boiled for many hours to clear poison and make it edible.
According to a resident, Domoo Nakule, women are forced to travel for long distances to get the berries, which are then boiled for the whole day.
“The wild fruit is boiled along the river because it needs a lot of water to drain the poison. People are sensitive to the berries and most of them, especially young children and the elderly, have suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting, but they have no option because there is no other food available,” said Mr Nakule.
Livestock prices at local markets have dropped drastically as the animals have become emaciated due to lack of pasture. A goat, which used to sell at Sh3,000, is now going for Sh500.
“Most of our livestock died in the past years due to drought. The few remaining have become emaciated and cannot fetch good market prices,” said Mr Nakule.
At Kamusuk village, the Sunday Nation found 70-year-old Lochoria Karani sleeping under a tree, pondering his next move. In this village are frail faces of children, the elderly and expectant mothers who are hardest hit by the calamity. The old man had not eaten for three days and was suffering bouts of diarrhoea after consuming wild fruit.
“I have no money to go to hospital. The government had enrolled us to the cash transfer programme, but the last time we received the money was six months ago,” said the frail man, a father of 11.
Chepokirop Siwamuk, a mother of four, is cuddling her three-month-old baby. She has been forced to boil some strong tea for him as her breasts cannot produce any milk.
“I can survive on wild fruit but I cannot give the bitter berries to the young one. He keeps crying as my breasts have no milk. We sometimes go for four days without eating anything,” said a visibly weak Siwamuk.
Also staring at starvation is 80-year-old Chemarmirich Komolingiro who said she had not eaten anything for days. She is very weak and can barely walk.
The residents now depend on burrow wells, from where they scoop a little water to quench their thirst and that of their remaining livestock.
The burrow wells are proving to be a disaster, though, with a boy being buried alive recently after the walls of a well caved in as he was fetching water.
Tiaty MP William Kamket termed the situation as dire even as he called for urgent intervention from the government and other humanitarian agencies.
“It’s good the government is putting in place some intervention though a bit late. We are facing extreme water shortage. All pan dams are 100 per cent dry. We need all manner of relief intervention,” said Mr Kamket.
In Turkana, which is the most affected according to Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, the situation is just as bad. A locust infestation has worsened the situation, almost depleting the entire vegetation in the county.
Other counties with high proportions of their populations at risk include Isiolo, Garissa, Wajir, Kilifi, Baringo, Marsabit, Tana River and Samburu.
Mandera, Kitui and Makueni are also at risk. In these counties, food security is expected to decrease in the coming months.
The government has started distributing food in the affected areas. Mr Wamalwa on Friday flagged off 7,000 bags of maize and beans and visited badly hit villages in the six constituencies.
“Instead of bringing relief food we want to build resilience to ensure that arid and semi-arid counties can work on water storage by harvesting water; like investing in dams, irrigating land in order to grow more food so that we also come to Turkana to take food to other parts of the country,” CS Wamalwa said.
“We will also exploit the Napuu water aquifer by expanding land under irrigation through reliable technology to increase food production as we can no longer rely on rain-fed agriculture.”
The worst hit villages include Nakurio and Kapua in Turkana Central Constituency, Kapedo and Katilia in Turkana East Constituency, Kalapata in Turkana South Constituency, Loteteleit in Loima Constituency and Kataboi and Lokitaung in Turkana North Constituency.
In Makueni, thousands of residents are facing starvation following the failure of the short November-December rains, which led to crop failure.
The areas that are badly hit are Kibwezi and Makueni sub-counties as well as the lower regions of Mbooni sub-county, with the National Drought Management Authority (Ndma) estimating that at least 54,000 households are in dire need of food aid.
Authorities have earmarked Nguu/Masumba area in Kibwezi West Constituency as one of the worst hit in the county, where some families reportedly survive on a single meal a day.
“Sometimes we go without a meal. This is because our maize crop failed completely and we depend on menial jobs since none in this family is gainfully employed,” said Mutinda Ndeke, a widow at Mweini Village whose family survives on relief food.
But the government’s response to the drought situation continues to be in sharp focus.
Just some months ago, heavy rainfall was reported in most parts of the country, yet the water went to waste.
Mid last year, parts of the country received exceptionally heavy rains, resulting in flash floods that led to loss of lives and damage to property.
The government responded by distributing blankets and food to the communities rendered homeless by the rains. Of concern also is the fate of the Galana-Kulalu project, under which the government targeted 10,000 acres for irrigation to ensure food security in the country.
According to the Kenya Red Cross, previous droughts occurred in 2004, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2016, with floods in-between.
The organisation’s public relations and communications manager Noellah Musundi, on her Twitter page, said major cases of drought occur in Kenya about every 10 years and moderate drought incidence every three to four years.
The last drought of 2016 was declared a national disaster and over 3.4 million people were affected. “Malnutrition rates were critical at above 20 per cent. In Turkana, they were extremely critical at 30.3 per cent and over 294,000 children under five were severely and moderately malnourished,” she posted on social media. With efficient early warning systems we should never allow ourselves get to such a tipping point,” she continued.
Reports by Florah Koech, Sammy Lutta, Pius Maundu and Kennedy Kimanthi
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.
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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.