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DRC, a vast African giant wracked by violence

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Africa’s second largest country, Democratic Republic of Congo, is rich in raw materials and minerals but cursed by deadly violence, insurgencies, graft and poverty.

Ahead of presidential elections on December 23, here are some facts about the country.

Eighty times the size of its former colonial master Belgium, the DRC covers 2.3 million square kilometres in the middle of Africa, behind only Algeria in area on the continent.

The majority of its population of 81.3 million people (World Bank, 2017) is Catholic.

As well as having access to the Atlantic Ocean it shares its borders with nine other countries: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

It is a nation plagued by conflict and disunity. While the official language is French, it has four indigenous national and 200 vernacular languages, hampering the forging of a national identity since independence in 1960.

The first democratically elected prime minister, independence hero Patrice Lumumba, was assassinated in 1961.

Army strongman Mobutu Sese Seko grabbed power in a coup in 1965, imposed the name Zaire and set up a dictatorial kleptocracy that lasted 32 years.

Rebel Laurent-Desire Kabila launched an armed campaign to overthrow Mobutu that drew in neighbouring countries. He seized power in 1997, renaming the country after the mighty Congo river.

Kabila expelled the forces of his Rwandan and Ugandan allies, sparking a conflict in the Kivu border region in which several African countries became involved.

The 1998-2003 conflict caused millions of deaths from violence, disease and starvation, called by some Africa’s “Great War”.

Many militia groups remain active in Kivu — divided into North and South provinces — which continues to suffer massacres, widespread rape and other atrocities.

Central Kasai province is another violence hotspot, with around 3,000 people killed in less than a year of unrest that erupted after soldiers killed a tribal chief in 2016.

Kabila’s son Joseph inherited the presidency after his father was killed by a bodyguard in 2001.

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He went on to win elections in 2006, the first free polls since independence, and a second term in 2011.

Kabila was meant to step down in 2016 but refused, prompting demonstrations met with bloody crackdowns.

After various delays, presidential elections have been set for December 23, 2018.

Aid agencies have accused all sides in DRC conflicts of using rape as a weapon of war to terrorise local populations.

South Kivu-based gynaecologist Denis Mukwege won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with women who have been victims of sexual abuse.

The country also suffers from Ebola, the hemorrhagic fever named after a river in the north of the country, and cholera.

Its tenth outbreak of Ebola since 1976 was declared on August 1 and has claimed at least 285 lives, according to a health ministry update in early December.

A cholera epidemic has claimed 857 lives since the start of the year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said last month.

Last year, the country had 55,000 cases of cholera, resulting in 1,190 fatalities.

The DRC has the potential to be one of Africa’s wealthiest countries “if it can overcome its political instability,” the World Bank says.

It is the world’s leading producer of cobalt, a key ingredient in top-range batteries including for smartphones and electric cars, and a top supplier of coltan, another mineral used for electronic products.

It is also Africa’s top producer of copper and sits on hydrocarbons, tropical timber, gold, diamonds and other minerals.

But competition for the wealth has bred conflict, graft, smuggling and mismanagement.

It is ranked 176 out of 188 for its human development (UN Human Development Programme) and 161 out of 180 for corruption (Transparency International).

In 2017 its economy grew 3.7 percent, according to the World Bank.



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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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