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EDITORIAL: Follow up the address with concrete action

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President Uhuru Kenyatta used Thursday’s State of the Nation address to give an account of what the administration has done in the past year.

However, the statement was heavily loaded, but did not meet the public’s expectations. It was long on platitudes, but short on actions. Several measures highlighted in the speech have been repeated oftentimes; hence, they did not sound novel.

Significantly, their impact has not been felt.

For example, talk of an improved economy sounded unconvincing in the context of rising cost of living and pervasive famine condemning many to an early death. Universal healthcare occupies centre stage in the Jubilee administration’s development agenda but it has not taken off.

As we have reported many times in the past, the healthcare system is dysfunctional. The same applies to security and, especially, the war against terrorism.

Reform and revitalisation of agriculture, the mainstay of the economy, is pertinent. Coffee, sugar and maize, among other sectors, face a bleak future due to sheer mismanagement. Task forces have been set up and reports duly compiled to turn them around, but remedies remain scanty.

It is a paradox that many farmers are stuck with their produce for lack of market while those who sell do not get value for their yields. Farming is becoming a curse instead of a boon.

The expectation was that he would go beyond regurgitation of facts and chart out a new path in the management of public affairs; that he would institute drastic measures to turn around the economy and thrash out the challenges bedevilling the country.

Top on the list was anticipation that he would take action on corruption — specifically, taking drastic measures on Cabinet secretaries and other top government officials adversely mentioned in the vice. But that did not happen.

Instead, he only issued warnings, as he has done many times before. Moreover, he charged all institutions involved in the fight against graft and administration of justice to up their game — as he has done before.

Except for the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, the other agencies have not demonstrated zeal in the graft war.

In particular, the Judiciary is under serious scrutiny for its handling of the cases, such that although part of the problem is poor investigation, the adjudication of matters before it is painfully slow.

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Corruption is the greatest threat to national development. All major development projects lined up to transform lives cannot be actualised unless we curb it and create an environment where resources can be used prudently for the intended purposes.

The strongest statement on corruption was that the government will conduct a wealth audit and interrogate how some individuals have accumulated assets. The challenge, though, is that that is not new and, from experience, is extremely difficult to execute.

He did not also confront the rising political temperatures arising from the premature campaigns for the 2022 elections. Already, Deputy President William Ruto is on the trail, criss-crossing the country in search of support for the top position.

Whereas he has the right to campaign, the ensuing division hurts the country. Groupings are forming and political tension, and division within the Jubilee Party over perceived differences between the President and the DP, is building up. That is not good for the economy.

Even so, we acknowledge the President’s commitment to unifying the country and ensuring stability.

He reiterated his commitment to the peace deal he signed with Opposition leader Raila Odinga and the subsequent roll-out of the Building Bridges Initiative. What remains, though, is for the President and Mr Odinga to convince the public that their initiative is not personality-built but an inclusive drive to steady the national ship and create a conducive environment for economic growth.

Equally, the President made a commitment to devolution — affirming that the counties must be supported to grow and, through that, empower communities at the grassroots and enable them to make decisions about their development. But that must be matched with financial support.

Counties must be properly funded. Conversely, governors and their administrations must be put on a tight leash to ensure they put all the monies to proper use.

President Kenyatta also reinforced his pledge towards the ‘Big Four Agenda’, stating that his administration will execute them within the next three years to catalyse development. Beyond the statement of intent, the onus is on the President to execute them.

But, on the whole, the President did not go far enough to give direction, especially on matters that keep bothering the citizens.



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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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