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Hasina: Bangladesh’s democracy icon-turned-iron lady

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By AFP
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To her supporters, Sheikh Hasina is Bangladesh’s “mother of humanity” for giving Rohingya refugees shelter, but to her detractors she’s a creeping autocrat who has jailed opponents and muzzled dissent.

Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s founder, won a historic fourth term as prime minister with a landslide victory in Sunday’s election that the opposition claimed was rigged.

The 71-year-old is lauded by supporters for overseeing a decade of impressive economic growth in the impoverished South Asian nation that was more commonly known for its frequent floods and cyclones.

MURDER
Opponents, however, accuse her of jailing arch-foe Khaleda Zia on politically motivated charges, of orchestrating mass arrests, enforced disappearances and passing draconian anti-press freedom laws to try to cling to power.

Hasina was abroad in August 1975 when a group of renegade military officers assassinated her father, Bangladesh’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his wife and three sons.

She started her political career as a hero of the people, returning from exile in 1981 to take over as Awami League leader and begin a long struggle to restore democracy in Bangladesh.

JAILED
Hasina joined forces with Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to help oust military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad in 1990, but the pair soon fell out and were branded the “Battling Begums”.

Their rivalry has dominated Bangladeshi politics for the last 30 years.

Hasina was first elected prime minister in 1996 but she struggled to emerge from the shadow of her father during her first term and lost the 2001 contest.

The pair were then imprisoned on corruption charges in 2007 by a military-backed government which had taken power in a coup.

The charges were dropped and they were freed to contest the December 2008 election, which Hasina won by a landslide.

ECONOMY
She has been in power ever since, presiding over economic expansion of more than six percent every year since 2009. GDP growth last year was 7.86 percent and Hasina has promised to take that into double digits.

Under her watch, Bangladesh is on course to graduate from a least-developed country to a middle-income nation.

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Poverty has been brought down to around 20 percent and nearly 90 percent of the country’s 165 million people now have access to electricity.

Her fans also praise her for opening Bangladesh’s doors to some one million Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in western Myanmar.

She has earned plaudits from Western nations for allowing the refugees to stay in camps in Bangladesh’s southeast, while her supporters insist she should be given a Nobel Peace Prize.

Hasina’s fans have lauded her for cracking down on Islamist extremists in the Muslim-majority nation, after five homegrown terrorists stormed a Dhaka cafe, killing 22 people — including 18 foreigners — in 2016.

She also launched trials of the powerful Islamist opposition over crimes committed during the 1971 independence war. Five top Islamist leaders and a main opposition stalwart were executed.

Her opponents branded the war crimes trials a farce, saying they were a politically motivated exercise designed to silence dissent.

Instead of healing the wounds of war, the trials have triggered mass protests and deadly clashes.

Hasina showed similar resolve in holding the trial of her main opponent and two-time former premier Zia, who was sentenced to 17 years in jail in two separate graft cases earlier this year.

AUTOCRAT
Analysts said the jailing effectively ended Zia’s political career and weakened the opposition ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary vote, the country’s 11th since independence.

They say Hasina’s regime has slid into authoritarianism since she pushed on with an uncontested general election in 2014.

“She has crushed the opposition and created a one-party dominant political system in Bangladesh,” says Ataur Rahman, a political science professor at Dhaka University.

Hasina married nuclear scientist M.A. Wazed Miah in 1968. They have two children, who are both US citizens, including son Sajeeb Wajed, who is an adviser to her government.

Hasina ignored calls by opponents to let a neutral government oversee Sunday’s election, which extended her reign as Bangladesh’s longest-serving leader after a campaign marred by violence and arrests of opposition activists.



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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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