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Desperate search for tsunami survivors in Indonesia

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A picture of large-scale destruction is emerging in and around the Indonesian city of Palu after an earthquake and tsunami struck on Friday.

At least 832 people are confirmed to have died but that figure is expected to rise sharply as more remote areas are reached.

The authorities have said they will begin burying victims in mass graves, fearing disease could begin to spread.

Dozens of people are thought to be trapped alive under the rubble.

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In Palu, rescuers are awaiting heavy machinery to search the ruins of a hotel and a shopping centre as aftershocks made it unsafe for them to go in.

“Communication is limited, heavy machinery is limited… it’s not enough for the numbers of buildings that collapsed,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

A tsunami warning had been issued after the magnitude-7.5 earthquake hit on Friday, but it is unclear whether it was still in place when the waves hit.

Videos show people screaming as 6m-high waves power over the beach – where a festival was being set-up – sweeping up everything in their path.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the region to urge a “day and night” effort to rescue survivors.

Mr Widodo has also agreed to accept international help for disaster response and relief, Thomas Lembong, the head of the Indonesian investment board said on Twitter on Monday.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s justice ministry is reporting that 1,200 convicts escaped from three different detention facilities in the Sulawesi region following the earthquake and tsunami.

How difficult is the rescue work?

Blocked roads, a damaged airport and broken telecommunications have made it difficult to bring help into the affected area, and impossible to contact more remote regions.

Workers assess a badly cracked road in Palu
Roads crumbled as the ground underneath gave way: AFP

“We don’t know for sure what is the impact,” said Mr Nugroho.

Local media report that mobile phone signals have been detected in the rubble of the shopping mall in Palu, and shouts have been heard under the debris of the Roa Roa Hotel.

Rubble of the Roa Roa hotel in PaluImage copyrightEPA
Image captionDozens of people were known to be inside the Roa Roa hotel

One volunteer, Thalib Bawano, told AFP news agency that three people had been rescued from the hotel rubble, where more than 50 people may be trapped.

“We also heard voices at several points, including a child,” he said.

“They were asking for help, but they are still there till now. We gave them motivation… so they can have spirit because they are trapped between life and death.”

“We gave them water and food but that’s not what they wanted. They wanted to get out. ‘We want to get out, out, out. Help! Help!’ they kept screaming. That’s what we heard. Some were just knocking.”

What are the other challenges?

In Palu, people have been sleeping in the open, wary of returning to their homes, even if they are still intact.

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Palu map
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With hospitals damaged, injured people have been treated in the open and at least one military field hospital has been set up.

The military has taken over the airport to fly aid in, and injured people and other evacuees out.

“What you’ll see, you know, as the days go by and people don’t have access to adequate hygiene supplies, shelter, you’ll see the situation deteriorate if they don’t get that access so, we’ve sent shelter kits,” Tom Howells, programme director for Save The Children, said on Sunday.

An injured man awaits evacuation at Palu airport, 30 September
Military aircraft have been evacuating some of the injured: REUTERS
A shattered mosque in Palu, 30 September
A shattered mosque in Palu: EPA

With supplies limited, people have been raiding damaged shops for food, water and medicine.

“We don’t have any other choice, we must get food,” one man told AFP.

Meanwhile mass graves are being dug, one of them for up to 300 bodies.

Why was the tsunami so destructive?

The 7.5-magnitude quake occurred at a depth of 10km (6.2 miles) just off the central island of Sulawesi at 18:03 (10:03 GMT) on Friday, setting off a tsunami, US monitors say.

Map showing population density in Sulawesi
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The earthquake was powerful but shallow and with more lateral than vertical movement, not typically the kind of tremor that sets off tsunamis.

Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has said the final death toll could be in the thousands while the Red Cross estimates that more than 1.6 million people have been affected.

A sophisticated tsunami warning system was put in place across the whole Pacific region after the 2004 disaster, which killed nearly a quarter of a million people.

It remains unclear why it was not effective this time, but Mr Nugroho said Indonesia’s part of the network has suffered from a lack of funding.



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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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