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Donors cut aid to Tanzania after rights crackdown

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Tanzania’s tough-talking president John Magufuli has earned respect by fighting corruption, but international donors are now concerned by crackdowns on human rights.

The European Union, Tanzania’s biggest development partner, and the World Bank have recently taken measures to sanction repressive policies.

Magufuli’s reputation was boosted when he battled corruption after winning election in 2015.

But accusations of repression are growing and donors and former allies are increasingly frustrated at what they say are moves that stifle dissent and create obstacles for journalists and rights activists.

“The European Union and some of its member countries, as well as the United States, have repeatedly drawn the attention of the government to the human rights situation,” said a European diplomat in Dar es Salaam on condition of anonymity.

“Even so, the situation continues to deteriorate, so we have had to move up a gear.”

In October, the governor of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, vowed to track down people suspected of engaging in homosexuality — which is illegal in Tanzania.

In November, the EU said it would thoroughly review its financial support — more than $100 million (88 million euros) a year — in response to moves that undermined human rights and the rule of law.

The EU, which also recalled its ambassador, said it was worried by “a shrinking of public space in Tanzania through the tightening of restrictions on the activities of civil society organisations, the media and many political parties.”

Washington accused the Tanzanian government of fostering “an atmosphere of violence, intimidation and discrimination.”

The EU’s decision to reconsider its aid coincided with one by the World Bank to freeze a $300 million (265 million euro) loan for girls’ education in protest against a move to expel pregnant girls from school and forbid them to continue their education after giving birth.

Meanwhile, Denmark announced the withdrawal of $10 million in aid owing to “unacceptable homophobic remarks”.

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In mid-December, four US senators called for the creation of a common front with “diplomatic partners” to put pressure on the Tanzanian government.

Magufuli has sought to shrug off the cuts, boasting that “Tanzania is on the right track”.

The government also insisted that the anti-gay crackdown in Dar es Salaam was not official policy, but rather the “personal views” of the city’s governor.

Many donors remain unconvinced however.

Magufuli, who says the diplomatic freeze is only with “those who do not want good to our country”, has moved to flatter China.

“The Chinese are our friends, true long-time friends,” he said recently while inaugurating a state-of-the-art library built with aid from Beijing.

Chinese funds are provided without conditions, he noted.

But observers say neither Magufuli nor donors want the situation to get any worse.

“It is possible that he (Magufuli) changes his course, that he shows flexibility if the pressure is maintained”, suggested Jenerali Ulimwengu, an influential lawyer and a former Tanzanian diplomat.

“He cannot in any case rely only on the Chinese, who… cannot provide all the necessary help.”

As for the European diplomat in Dar es Salaam, donors are well aware that cuts hit the poorest the hardest.

“But it is possible to send aid through other channels, including civil society organisations,” the diplomat added.

“Bridges are not cut, discussions are underway and we hope that the Tanzanian government will eventually understand that development and respect for human rights must go together.”

Others warn that using aid to influence government policy could do more harm than good.

“Suddenly halting or stopping aid can have dire unintended consequences for complex and important projects helping vulnerable people,” wrote Irish senator Fintan Warfield, an openly gay LGBT activist, in response to calls for Dublin to review its support.

“It is only through continued support to the Tanzanian people and being a critical friend that we can hope to improve the human rights situation in Tanzania, and end the persecution of our LGBT+ brothers and sisters.”

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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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