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Kenya’s generosity towards refugees is impressive

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By FRED OLUOCH
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The Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements spoke to Fred Oluoch on the emerging trends in East Africa and the global restructuring of the UN body.

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East Africa is competing for attention with crises in the rest of the world, for example in Syria and Yemen. Are we likely to see more focus on the region?

That is one of the reasons for my visit to Kakuma refugee camp [in northwestern Kenya]—we are trying to bring the world’s attention back to East Africa.

Countries in this region have been hosting refugees for decades and they need support from the international community to handle their growing humanitarian needs.

What is your general assessment of the living conditions in Kakuma?

This is my first visit to Kakuma and one of the reasons I wanted to come is that Kenya has hosted refugees of different nationalities for almost 30 years in this part of the country.

It is not an emergency situation anymore and things are starting to stabilise but we still have refugees coming in from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

Private sector investments are also growing. We are no longer approaching the situation from just a humanitarian aid angle, but we are also seeking solutions.

On economic inclusion, the target is not just refugees who want to rebuild their lives but also the Kenyan host community. Indeed, I am impressed by their continued generosity over the decades.

There are concerns that funding from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is dwindling at a time the refugee population is expanding rapidly across the globe. What impact will that have on the services you are offering?

The issue of funding is one of my primary tasks. Our projects continue to grow.

Last year, we received a record amount from donors, but unfortunately, it has not closed the funding gap. This makes our job difficult.

We have to identify priority areas. Meanwhile, we are trying to bring more donors on board, particularly for places like Kakuma.

Our interactions with the refugees reveal that most of them are unwilling to return to their home countries. That decision is really up to them and not the UNHCR.

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Parts of South Sudan for example are still unsafe so it would be difficult for those who fled to return. We are, however, hopeful that the peace process will hold and that this will encourage refugees to go back home.

Kakuma is experimenting with the concept of economic inclusion. Can it be replicated in Dadaab?

Yes. While I have not been to Dadaab, I have experience in Ethiopia where they have done fantastic work with private sector partners.

They have focussed on economic inclusion, energy and education not only for the refugees, but also Ethiopians.

Dadaab, too, has the potential for such programmes. This does not mean it will be easy, but there are programmes we could initiate to sustain the refugees and the local population.
Incorporating biometrics allows the refugees to own their agencies and UNHCR as a service provider and the Kenyan government to have a sound assessment of the situation. We are moving from a humanitarian to a development approach.

We want to see how it will be replicated not just in Dadaab but also in other parts of the world.

Do you think Kakuma is changing for the better?

Talking to the team in Kakuma, I realised that there has been a gradual change. Nothing was in place when refugees started coming to Kakuma but over time, it has been demonstrated that it is a good thing when the host community benefits from the economic opportunities.

For example, I discovered that government officials shop in the market where refugees produce goods. It is a win-win situation since attitudes are changing.

The global restructuring of UNHCR has raised fears of job losses, especially in Kenya…

There will be a change of roles and not job losses. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who served as head of UNHCR for 10 years [2005-2015], is of the view that the organisation has become distant from the people we are serving as it is much more centralised.

He believes, just as I do, that if you bring decision-making closer to the people then you become a more effective organisation.

So we are restructuring internally and strengthening country operations as in Kenya, to allow regional bureaus such as Nairobi to make decisions without having to refer to Geneva.

We hope this will strengthen the organisation and make it more effective. These changes will make us understand better how development partners think. We already have the skills that we need within UNHCR so it is a matter of changing roles, not losing jobs.

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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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