Lock up the babies, politicians are coming” was a slogan at political rallies in the UK some years ago. Every British politician just needed to find a baby in a rally to hold and cuddle for a few seconds to show how empathetic a leader they were.
It was a ploy to give politicians a human face. As soon as elections were over, they would turn their backs on voters, never to return until the next cycle of elections.
Looking at the number of Kenyan politicians queuing up to distribute famine relief food is looking at insensitivity, hypocrisy and selfishness all rolled into one.
Where were they before, only to sprout and embrace the dying? They are rolling over themselves to gain undeserved capital out of a desperate and dire situation. They think it is a kind gesture but it is purely sadistic.
To make matters worse, the head of National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) comes out on the BBC with the most banal of responses to the drought.
He is quoted as saying that the people of Turkana are used to hunger anyway. Meaning, we just let hunger roll on because it is affecting the Turkana?
I am sorry, but where on earth does the government find such people to run places they are never fit to. For that is exactly my view.
He ought to have known better that hunger is a perennial problem in parts of the country and plan early to mitigate it — but not sit on the drought information because some groups are more resilient to hunger than others!
His sentiments bring me to the concern that I have always had: That the rest of the country perceives pastoralists, or nomads, as second-class citizens not worthy of a look in and only suitable to have crumbs thrown at them from whatever is left of the national cake. And the perception feeds into the policymaking forums.
Policymakers from other parts of the country seem to have little understanding, or care, for pastoralists or nomadic communities to consider fully their plight in development goals. And the wrong decisions end up undermining the rights of these vulnerable minorities.
The solution to famine will not be found in piecemeal plans and through expensive PR firms hired to spin figures of the dead and dying. It is embedded in long-term projects to bring prosperity to communities perennially ravaged by drought.
We cannot force people to change their way of life but can meet them halfway to improve their livelihoods through fair distribution of wealth. Preparing early with water, pasture and food supplies to mitigate suffering that we witness year in, year out is a good start but that is only a short-term measure.
In the recent past, we have witnessed huge projects start in Turkana with exploration of oil and the Lapsset project cutting through the counties of Isiolo and Marsabit.
Compensation of land to the pastoralists and nomadic communities has not made it to the news bulletins. Has one ever been initiated? If not, why? If these communities were treated as equal to the sedentary communities who were compensated for their land from the SGR projects, the funds would have gone a long way to alleviate hardship in the remote and harsh areas.
I understand most of the lands used by nomads and pastoralists are communally owned. However, if there is any justice in the world, they, too, ought to have been considered for compensation.
Like it or not, their lives have been disrupted by projects that they had little input in.
If anything, their grazing lands have shrunk and are at risk of shrinking further with more projects earmarked for the area. Which means these communities will be pushed further into poverty without adequate land compensation.
The then-Environment minister, Prof Judi Wakhungu, told a Unesco event in 2013 that a “huge water source” had been discovered in Turkana. This she confirmed in a tweet.
It is estimated that that discovery was enough to make Kenya water sufficient for 70 years! However, nothing of that water has been heard of since. This is an incredible discovery that would have partly addressed the current drought issue six years later had we begun to utilise it.
The oil and water found in Turkana should transform lives beyond recognition but alas! There is every likelihood that the benefits will be felt in pockets elsewhere.
The oil-rich Middle Eastern countries have similar climate patterns as northern Kenya but rarely do we hear of famine there. What is it they do differently from us — apart from corruption, of course?
We must stop to view the arid and semi-arid lands through the lenses of tribe, elitism and class and consider the potential lying in the dry sands for the benefit of the locals and the country. We struck oil and found water in Turkana but much more could lie where that came from.
Of all the things, death is not one to spin. It is time for mature, progressive and transparent politics that will bring meaningful change to the lives of every Kenyan.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
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.
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.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
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
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
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.
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.
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.