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Efficient cookstoves take up a new task in Kenya: heating

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When Joyce Njenga replaced her traditional open-fire hearth with
an energy-saving stove, she was pleased it lived up to its
promised efficiencies: using less firewood and halving cooking
times.

But it also keeps her family warm in cold weather.

“When I finish cooking in the kitchen, I carry the cooker to
the living room where my family keeps warm for the rest of the
evening,” the mother-of-five said.

And before bed, she puts water on the stove so a warm bath
is ready by the time the sun rises over Nguriunditu village in
central Kenya.

More than 100,000 homes in Kenya use the stove – known
locally as jiko okoa, a Swahili phrase that means a cooker that
saves energy – for food preparation, said Joseph Njoroge, the
principal secretary at the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.

But a third of users have found an additional benefit from
it, he said: heating.

And with the country’s meteorological department warning in
June that the cold season could get chillier in the future due
to the effects of climate change, that number could rise.

HEALTH IMPACT

Burning wood, coal or kerosene indoors – as about 2.8
billion people worldwide do every day, the International Energy
Agency (IEA) says – can be highly dangerous. The associated
pollution kills about 2.8 million people each year, according to
a 2017 IEA report.

The health burden, which includes strokes, heart disease,
breathing disorders and lung cancer, falls mainly on women and
young children, according to the World Health Organization.

In order to tackle that, the UN Foundation in 2010
launched a worldwide program to tackle the problem of illness
and deaths from indoors cooking.

That effort is run by the Global Alliance for Clean
Cookstoves project, which aimed to provide 100 million homes
with clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.

By 2017, the alliance said it had distributed about 81
million stoves worldwide – including in Kenya – that were clean
or efficient or both.

Njenga’s stove came from a different effort, the Muguga
Ecosystem Research Community Forest Association (MERCFA), a
community-based organisation.

Simon Kamonde, who chairs MERCFA, said demand for the stoves
– which are funded by the African Development Bank in
partnership with the government – was high as they save energy
and have multiple uses.

“It has a clay lining that prevents heat from escaping, uses
two firewood sticks at a time, is very quick to cook with, and
does not release a lot of smoke, making it ideal for warming in
modern homes,” he said.

More efficient stoves are healthier. A 2016 study in western
Kenya
showed they produced fewer toxins than the traditional
cooking fire, set amid three large stones used to support a pot.

Harmful small particulate matter dropped as much as 42
percent, while carbon monoxide emissions were down as much as 34
percent, the study found.

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However, the study found that the efficient stoves still
produced more than the WHO-recommended levels of small
particulate matter emissions.

MERCFA’s Kamonde said the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
– a known issue with burning fuels such as firewood and charcoal
indoors – was not likely when using the jiko okoa, because its
design funnels more oxygen to the wood while it burns.

MERCFA discourages the use of charcoal, which is more
polluting.

In Njenga’s village, more than 200 of 600 homes now use the
stove. Kamonde said MERCFA aims to distribute it to more than
5,000 homes in the county by the end of next year.

Using the stoves also means fewer trees are felled in nearby
Muguga forest, where villagers traditionally source firewood,
which protects the environment, Kamonde said.

“Within one year, a family that used about six trees per
month for firewood is now using two trees,” he said.

In Njenga’s case, using the traditional three-stone hearth
required 600 kilograms of wood a month. Now she uses no more
than 100 kilograms, she said.

BRISK BUSINESS

In 2016 the government cut import duties on the stoves, many
of which are made abroad, from 25 percent to 10 percent, helping
small businesses that sell them, said Njoroge.

“This has made the technology more affordable and enabled it
to be integrated into the market retail chain. Our long-term aim
is to ensure the cooker is manufactured locally so as to create
jobs,” said Njoroge.

Demand means brisk business for Joseph Kimani, a trader from
Githunguri village in central Kenya. He sells about 20 stoves a
week at Sh1,200 ($12) each, earning him $40
profit.

He said even people with access to electricity prefer the
stove for preparing food and heating their home; they reserve
electricity for lighting and powering their television.

“The uptake of the cooker is very good simply because it
uses very little firewood, saves money, (and) is safe to cook
with,” he said.

The risk of burns is much lower when compared with the
traditional three-stone fire, he said, because the flames are
contained entirely within the unit.

Njenga said her daughter, who lives in the capital Nairobi,
was so impressed by the stove’s efficiency that she now wanted
one “to keep her living room warm instead of paying high
electricity bills for her heater”, the 57-year-old said.

Other Kenyans remain cautious. Lucy Cianjoka, a 52-year-old
in Chera village in central Kenya, bought an energy-saving stove
in 2016, but only uses it in her kitchen to cook.

She will not use it to warm the living room as she worries
about the smoke and the danger to children, she said.

“I do not allow my children in the kitchen because anything
that produces fire and smoke is not to be trusted in terms of
safety,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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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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