Have you ever wondered how your holiday trips, recreation and shopping spree around the festive season influence prices of essential commodities and, by extension, the economy? For many Kenyans, December is the time to sit back and celebrate their gains after a year of hard work.
Underneath the merry of Christmas though, is an economic reality that is not as flattering as latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.
According to KNBS, inflation soared in the last four months leading to December, averaging at 5.63 per cent per month as demand for food stuff, clothing and transport rose.
The highest inflation in 2018 was in December at 5.71 per cent, while the lowest increase in prices was in April at 3.73 per cent.
The price of food and non-alcoholic beverages, for instance, rose by one per cent between November and December and 2.54 per cent since 2017.
Transport, fuel, electricity and housing recorded a significantly higher rate of between 13.47 and 14.34 per cent.
At 70 per cent, charcoal experienced the highest inflation rate among the commodities surveyed. In 2017, for instance, a 4kg tin of charcoal retailed at Sh83 but shot to Sh141 at the end of December.
This steep rise in the price of charcoal, hitherto a major source of fuel to many low-scale Kenyan households, was as a result of the government’s ban on logging in February last year as a measure to protect forests and water towers.
Perhaps the biggest reprieve for Kenyans in 2018 was the dramatic fall in the price of maize flour, owing to wide-ranging interventions by the government aimed at cushioning poor households from high prices of the main staple.
From Sh101 in December 2017 down to Sh86 in December 2018, the price of sifted maize meal dropped by an incredible 15 per cent. Wheat flour also fell by eight per cent to sell at Sh122, down from Sh135 in 2017. Electricity cost remains a burden to most homes.
In 2018, the price of 50kwh rose steadily to Sh757 from Sh649 in 2017 — a 16 per cent rise.
Inflation of vegetable prices, however, remained relatively low. Only capsicums (pili pili hoho) and carrots, retailing Sh125 and Sh61 respectively last month, rose by more than 10 per cent.
A kilo of cabbage closed the year at Sh38, a Sh4 increase from the same period in 2017. Beef prices rose marginally from about Sh428 a year earlier to retail at Sh447 by last month.
House rent remained virtually unchanged between December 2017 and December 2018, with a single room going for Sh4,400 compared to Sh4,200 the year before.
Traditionally, the cost of fuel drives inflation by raising prices of most commodities. At the end of 2018, the price of a litre of diesel and kerosene had risen by double figures. This forced Kenyan households to pay Sh34 more for a litre of kerosene at Sh106 up from Sh72 in 2017, or a 46 per cent increase.
Diesel, mainly used in transport and for industrial purposes, sold at Sh111 up from Sh92 the year before, representing a 21 per cent upsurge. The surges in the cost of kerosene and diesel also reflected the controversial introduction of VAT on petroleum prices, which was reduced from 16 per cent to eight per cent after President Kenyatta’s intervention.
Shockingly, the cost of return tickets for domestic flights shot by 7.44 per cent from Sh19,700 in November to Sh21,230 in December 2018. This rate sharply contrasted the cost of return tickets for international flights which rose by a paltry 0.63 per cent from Sh119,000 in November to Sh120546 in December.
While inflation for international flights for the whole year was at 8.92 per cent, that for domestic flights was more than two times higher at 18.43 per cent.
Economic analysts attribute the scenario to increasing demand for air transport locally for business people and tourists. Lovers of alcoholic beverages had to part with Sh170 to buy a 500ml bottle of beer in December 2018 compared to Sh160 a year ago, representing a 8.19 per cent increase rate.
KNBS conducted a survey by collecting data from 25 selected retail outlets in Nairobi and in 13 other major towns in Kenya to compile these statistics.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.