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Expert holiday safety tips: Make merry but be wary

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Ahead of the festive season, Securex C.E.O Tony Sahni discusses some common crime trends noted in Christmases past and how to steer clear of the threats.

“Even amidst the frivolities of the festive season, criminal elements lurk among us. We often remind ourselves to remember the reason for the season; this time let us remember to stay safe while commemorating the occasion.”-Tony Sahni.

The holidays often pose a unique challenge to most business and homeowners.

Now, I would forgive you if perhaps you thought that by this I meant picking a holiday destination, booking your travel, or whether to pack your swimming trunks or wear shorts to the beach for a change.

Historically speaking, certain crime patterns tend to rear their ugly heads over and over each holiday season. In fact, in the build-up to this holiday season, we have already seen some of these trends taking shape across the country.

Take, for instance, reports of carjacking and highway robbery that have increased in recent months, particularly at points along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway like Gilgil and Naivasha.

Organized crime in Butere, Mumias, Mombasa, Mandera and Meru has repeatedly been highlighted in media and police reports; while some gangs opt for more covert tactics like drugging revellers in bars in Thika.

These security challenges are what we sometimes fail to address and prepare for in good time. Care needs to be taken to avoid becoming soft targets to these forms of crime this holiday season.

1.       Carjacking:

Christmas tradition dictates that we criss-cross the country to share some festive cheer with family. Whether via public means, private or hired vehicle, most of us will be on the road over the next few weeks.

Unfortunately, criminals anticipate this as well. Reports of highway robbery at Voi along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway road, for instance, are not unheard of.

More common are ambushes by gangs at Gilgil and Karai, near Naivasha, along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

We should remain alive to the most common tricks these thugs use to dupe vulnerable drivers.

These include motioning you to stop as though there’s some mechanical fault with your car, hitting your car from behind and striking as you pull over to inspect the damage, and feigning mechanical trouble with their own vehicle pretending to be in need of your help.

2.       Armed Robbery:

This is a hallmark of organized crime, evidence of which has already been seen in Mombasa where gangs have been wreaking havoc over the last couple of months.

We know most of you cannot resist the coast over the holiday season, but perhaps a bit of caution would be wise.

Do a little homework before going on that trip to learn the crime trends in the area.

For instance, locations that have been troublesome in Mombasa in the past include Kisauni, Nyali, Likoni and Old Town.

It might not be advisable to walk alone at night in these areas. Try to blend in with the local crowd as opportunistic thugs often look to prey on foreigners.

You could also ask your hotel information desk to recommend safer places to visit. On that note, if you have a fanny pack, definitely do not wear that outside. Do not dress flashy and leave any unnecessary valuables like your Kindle or tablet in the hotel room.

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3.       Burglary/Theft:

You’re excited about this trip that you have been saving up for all year. Your young ones cannot wait to flood everyone’s Instagram timelines with vacation pictures and hashtags.

Remember, you might as well be advertising that your house is now free to be broken into. In Naivasha for instance, gangs have been targeting and breaking into homes they perceive to be unoccupied.

Speak to your private security provider on beefing up your security protocols before leaving, both the office or your business and your home.

Using technology that can be monitored and controlled remotely might help you sleep better while on holiday. For your home, ask a neighbour to make your house look “lived in.” They can park their car in your driveway or use your hanging lines even.

4.       Crime Targeting Children:

Crime targeting children also tends to spike over the holiday season, simply because they are seen as the softest of targets and they are not in school for eight hours every day.

The most imminent of threats here are abduction and sexual violence. For their own safety, it’s advisable to know their whereabouts at all times.

Encourage your children to use the buddy system whenever out in public. Implore them not to be lured into vehicles or houses that they do not know, and drill into them that they should never accept food or drink from strangers.

When out and about, teach them the concept of “safe strangers” like a security guard in uniform or a mom with kids. Most importantly, if they are in a situation that makes them uncomfortable, they should yell and get away.

5.       Mugging:

This primarily occurs towards the end and in the immediate aftermath of the holiday season.

Most affected are urban areas like the Central Business District in Nairobi and Mombasa, and suburban areas like Karen in Nairobi which saw an influx of armed thugs on wheels particularly around the New Year holiday.

When in town, avoid parking in spots that are isolated and use ATMs that are in well-lit, public areas.

Do not walk around with large amounts of cash on you if you can help it and try not to make yourself a target.

However, should you be outnumbered or faced with armed opposition, do not resist. Material loss can always be recovered, life cannot.

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In addition to all this, sometimes it’s the little things that we have to watch out for. A number of safety-related incidents typically noted over this season are easily avoided.

When decorating your Christmas tree, hang the ornaments at the top of the tree yourself and let your children put up the rest. This way, they do not have to overreach and risk falling over.

Also be careful with Christmas cards, especially those with button batteries which children can easily end up swallowing.

The risk of fire is also heightened over this season.

Remember that pretty as they might be, Christmas lights are just as susceptible to power surges and could end up lighting up more than just your living room.

Be sure to put out any candles not in use or when going to bed, and keep them far from anything flammable like curtains.

Stay safe will you!

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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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