Sharon Otieno’s daughter, aged one-and-a-half years, plays with her 51-year-old grandfather Douglas Otieno inside their humble mud-walled house.
Oblivious to the tragic events unfolding around her and, perhaps, that may alter the course of her life forever, she is reluctant to leave his side. She clings to him as if to seek his protection.
The fear of strangers is her life’s biggest concern because she is afraid of people.
Nevertheless, new faces keep trooping in and out of their home on a daily basis, as they have done for the last few weeks now, and all she can do is run to her grandfather.
She and her other two siblings will now be raised by their grandparents after their mother was killed in a most brutal fashion — raped, tortured and stabbed eight times.
“It is like we have given birth again. We are glad that we have Sharon’s three children, a boy and two girls and we will raise them to the best of our ability,” Mr Otieno – seated next to his wife Melida Auma in their first one-on-one interview with the Nation since their daughter was killed three weeks ago – says.
They say Sharon’s youngest child reminds them so much of their late daughter. “The playful toddler resembles her so much,” Ms Auma says.
Their three grandchildren bring them solace and happiness in the face of this unthinkable tragedy.
“Luckily, she has left behind a generation,” Sharon’s parents say wistfully, even though they know in their hearts that nothing on earth can replace their dead child, whose life an assassin’s cruel blade painfully took away.
Her children now spend their night at their grandfather’s bed, just so they can feel the warmth of a ‘parent’.
Mr Otieno had, since the death of his daughter, maintained studious silence. He became taciturn and reclusive, no doubt weighed down by memories of his slain daughter whom he describes as a jewel.
“I go to the Med25 International-Kenya Hospital Mortuary in Mbita where my daughter’s body is, almost on daily basis. There, I often ask the attendants to bring her body to me. I sit beside it, touching and observing it. It satisfies my heart to just see it,” he says.
His slightly tremulous voice wears a woeful timbre even though his face remains expressionless, if somewhat careworn.
“I just sit next to her. Seeing her brings me some relief. I feel good, happy and satisfied that she is still with us. Her being dead does not scare me, she is my daughter anyway and I loved her very much. Her killers have robbed me off a pearl,” he says.
Not new to medics and hospitals, Mr Otieno reveals that he worked in a hospital set-up as a clerk for more than 14 years before he was retrenched 18 years ago. His last station was Migori District Hospital, now a Level Five county referral hospital.
“As a clerk in public hospitals, I saw many bodies, some badly mutilated. The body of my daughter does not therefore scare me,” he says.
Mr Otieno is now a peasant farmer and is supported financially by his wife, who is a teacher at Rabango Primary School in Rangwe Sub-County.
Here, she lived with her daughter Sharon who commuted almost daily to Rongo University for her studies. She was a second-year student pursuing a course in medical records and information sciences.
He visits the facility that is in Mbita constituency, located over 50 kilometres away from his home in Magare village, Homa Bay County.
This he does whenever he has time to kill and, even though his daughter’s issue has drained him financially, he does not mind so much, as long as he spends time with his dead daughter.
At times he visits the morgue early in the morning while other times he stays up late into the night.
“Sharon is my child, I fathered her and she deserves all respect and love, even in her death,” Mr Otieno, whose wife sits beside him all this while, quiet and observant, just chipping in with the odd comment every once in a while, says.
“Yes, he goes to check on our daughter at the morgue. When at home, he at times forgets to go to sleep and I have to force him as late as 3am to at least go and just lay his head on the bed,” his wife says.
But though he has a busy schedule, he manages to read a copy of the Nation which he buys daily, just to keep himself abreast with what is happening with investigations into his daughter’s death.
Ms Auma got married to her husband as soon as she completed her secondary education and gave birth to their first born daughter, Sharon, months later.
Together, they have three other children, the last born being a standard five pupil. Mr Otieno says at times he feels like his intestines are being shredded to pieces as memories of his daughter weigh him down. Ms Auma says Sharon’s death has left a very big gap in their lives.
“She was very close to me; she was my confidante and friend. She knew all development plans in this family, all our pains and happiness. She kept telling us to pray for her so that she could assist us to have a decent home. I feel lonely now,” Ms Auma recounts.
She says they shared a lot with her daughter whom she viewed as her age-mate, given that she gave birth to her when still young.
She says that, in character, Sharon took after her father; a straightforward and no-nonsense person.
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.