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Kenya on course to realizing UN recommended forest cover

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Kenya is on course to realizing the United Nations’ recommended standard of 10 percent forest cover following the launch of a joint venture by the National Youth Service (NYS) and the Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) to develop 50 million tree seedlings for planting by May 2019.

Dubbed the Greening Kenya Campaign, the offshoot project was conceptualized from a Memorandum of Understanding signed on October 30, 2018, on collaboration between the two entities across key lines in project management and service delivery.

The initiative was officially launched Wednesday at the Ruiru GK Prison farm by the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth & Gender Affairs Prof. Margaret Kobia, her counterpart in the Ministry of Interior & Coordination of National Government Dr. Fred Matiang’i, and Keriako Tobiko for the Ministry of Environment & Forestry.

Some 12 million seedlings — both indigenous and exotic — are being developed at the facility through the utilization of the resources available in both institutions. Similar nurseries have been set up in 27 other centres in all the regions and ecological zones across the country  where 38 million more seedlings will be developed and distributed from.

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The three Cabinet Secretaries jointly supervised the planting of 3,000 trees at the farm to cap the launch, which saw 47,000 more seedlings planted in the other 27 stations.

Prof. Kobia noted that the collaboration between NYS and KPS to execute a project of such a magnitude is testament to the potential benefits that synergy between government agencies and institutions can yield if fully utilized.

“The Government is a system that requires all of us to work together to achieve our targets,” she said, adding that the campaign will not only complement the global efforts to reverse the effects of climate change but also earn Kenya more carbon credits.

She also exuded confidence that the NYS 2018 Bill, which was recently approved by the Cabinet, will help the institution leverage collaboration with other entities in all sectors and align itself to the objectives of H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big 4 agenda.

 

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On his part, CS Keriako Tobiko acknowledged the magnitude of the target and the urgency of achieving and maintaining the constitutional requirement regarding forest cover and called upon other agencies and institutions to come on board with financial and technical support.

To realize the 10 percent national forest cover by 2022, the country must plant at least 500 million seedlings annually. However, the high cost of producing these seedlings, which is currently estimated at Kshs. 20 per seedling, renders the government’s efforts in this endeavor unsustainable.

Tobiko said: “This target is beyond our capacity if we go it alone as the Ministry of Environment and Forestry; if other partners team up with us the way these two institutions [NYS and KPS] have, then we can even surpass our target.”

Under the Greening Kenya Campaign, the conservative production cost will be reduced by almost half. The project lab has enlisted the support of local corporate organizations and companies, which are expected to leverage the benefits of the Kyoto Model Forest and their respective Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects to publicize and sustain the campaign.

Dr. Matiang’i stated that the synergy between the two institutions is timely and pledged to mobilize the necessary financial and human resources to support the government’s forestation drive.

He said: “Our target is to provide at least 50 million seedlings annually for the next four years, but we will build on the lessons we’re learning from the first phase to increase the figures progressively.”

He also directed all National Government Administration Officers (NGAOs), including chiefs and their assistants, to step up the enforcement of the government moratorium on logging activities in public and community forests in their respective areas of jurisdiction. On November 16, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry extended the ban by one year to allow the scaling up of the tree planting campaigns.

The ultimate objective of the Greening Kenya Campaign is to impart agroforestry skills to Kenyans and cultivate a culture of nurturing trees. This will be achieved through the  deployment of NYS servicemen/women, prison warders, and National Government Administration Officers (NGAOs) to provide sustained technical supervision to ensure that seedlings are protected to maturity.



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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.

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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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