Motorists who have no choice but to park in Nairobi’s central business district must be relieved that the High Court suspended the new parking fees structure imposed by the city government.
The relief granted could be short-lived; it is possible that in the next month or so, Nairobi’s denizens will need to make the difficult decision whether to leave their cars at home and walk or use the abusive public means, or dig deeper into their already depleted pockets to pay for the luxury of driving to work.
As the matter is in court, it would hardly do to comment on its merits and demerits, but since this is an issue of immense public interest, there would be little prejudice in asking an obvious question: what is the rationale for county authorities to impose such a punitive charge without telling us how the money raised will be used to help them?
Those poor fellows do not drive to town for pleasure; they have to make a living.
Many motorists would prefer to leave their vehicles at home; driving in the mind-boggling chaos that has become the order of the day long ceased to be fun.
City motorists are not gluttons for punishment and they would do anything for peace of mind.
To achieve this, they wouldn’t even mind paying heavily for the privilege if only they had the money to spare – but they don’t.
Right now, it is difficult for every middle-class office worker who owns a jalopy to pay Sh2,000 a week for parking, especially if the car was acquired through a loan that has to be serviced, not to mention fuel prices which are always fluctuating in an upward trajectory.
But some people argue that if you can afford to buy and drive a car, you should be able to afford an extra Sh200 for parking.
This is balderdash. These people are already too heavily taxed and they don’t see where their money goes.
Early in the week, I chanced upon a highly amusing plea by the UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Sharif for Kenyans to cycle or walk to work because it is not only a healthy habit, but also good for the environment.
Apparently, although the Habitat boss lives in Nairobi, she knows little about the city. Many do, indeed, walk to work, but not for health reasons – they simply cannot afford bus fare.
However, it is almost impossible to find anyone willing to cycle to work unless they live and work in up-market suburbs.
Kenyans may be poor, but they do not have a collective death wish. Has Ms Shariff ever tried to ride a bicycle on any of the roads leading to the city during rush hour? If she did, she would not be talking that way.
Granted, while pushing for the non-motorised traffic system, she did acknowledge that city-dwellers waste valuable time stuck in traffic.
To cure this, she urged the government to provide the necessary infrastructure – walkways, bicycle lanes and relevant signage – but she was wasting her breath.
Such relatively low-cost infrastructure projects are unattractive to policymakers for they do not provide enough opportunities for hefty kickbacks.
I listened to the man in charge of county traffic management, Mr Tom Tinega, defend the hefty parking fee increases on TV.
Some of his arguments were fascinating. It appears his main concern was not how to decongest the city but how to raise more revenue.
He even advised motorists who may feel the pinch to park in outlying zones like Ngara, Kilimani or Westlands.
If only the good man would tell us where the unoccupied parking slots in Ngara, for instance, are located, I am sure everyone would be grateful.
There are reasons why authorities in highly-populated cities have managed to keep private motorists away from their CBDs by charging exorbitant fees.
It works very well in cities like London and Bonn because they have workable transport systems with subways, trams, trains, BRT and well-guarded parking areas in the suburbs.
Commuters see no reason to drive to work and they enjoy much healthier lifestyles.
Nobody knows how the High Court will rule on the matter of the parking fee increase on January 21, and it would be foolhardy to second-guess the verdict, but one thing is clear: the city government will have a hard time implementing it – at least in the public service sector, judging from the reaction of the Matatu Owners Association boss, one Mr Simon Kimutai.
It appears both the county and national governments are unable to implement any plan to decongest the city without impoverishing its denizens further.
The city managers should try more innovative ways to solve its numerous problems besides throwing hard-earned taxpayers’ money at them.
In the meantime, parking boss Tinega may consider donating his free parking slot to distressed motorists. No doubt the gesture will be highly appreciated.
Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor. [email protected]
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.