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Kenyatta family project floods homes in Ruiru

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MARY WAMBUI

By MARY WAMBUI
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HARRY MISIKO

By HARRY MISIKO
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Developers of an upcoming city, owned by the Kenyatta family in Ruiru, are on the spot after their dam caused rain water to flood homes in surrounding areas in the small hours of Thursday.

Northlands City, a mega urban development comprising residential, industrial and commercial units, is being set up using water from Uhuru Dam, also called Sukari Dam.

There has been a simmering conflict between residents and owners of the project, conceived in 2016 and planned by Triad Architects, since 2015.

This was after the height of the wall at the dam’s spillway was raised to accommodate more water.

Ruiru residents stand outside their flooded
Ruiru residents stand outside their flooded homes on December 5, 2019. PHOTO | MARY WAMBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

According to residents, the raised wall put their lives at risk and exposed their property to damage by floods.

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“In our various meetings with you, we expressed our reservations on the ”containment wall” blocking storm water from our estate into the natural course, which is within your property,” the residents said in a letter dated September 17, 2015.

The protest letter was addressed to Northlands City under the care of Brookside Dairy, a milk processor owned by the Jomo family, and was received by Ms Angela Kyungu, the project lead, on September 25, 2015.

“It (the wall) restricts the natural flow of the water, thereby causing flooding in our estate during heavy rain periods,” the letter, signed by Varsityville Residents Association Secretary Francis Kiarie, adds.

Their fears were confirmed Thursday morning when storm water flooded their houses as they slept.

Homes surrounded by water on December 5, 2019.
Homes surrounded by water on December 5, 2019. There has been a simmering conflict between residents and owners of the Northlands project belonging to the Kenyatta family. PHOTO | MARY WAMBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

One of the affected residents, Ms Caroline Gitari, told the Nation that their houses were flooded shortly after 1 am.

“There is an obstruction that has forced water to flow into Varsityville estate and other surrounding areas,” she said.

She said she could count close to 10 houses that were affected by the raging waters.

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“We have not slept. As we speak, we are stranded with children. Our houses are a big mess,” she added.

Varsityville estate in Ruiru. PHOTO | GOOGLE
Varsityville estate in Ruiru. PHOTO | GOOGLE MAPS

Ms Catherine Koech, another resident, said they are living in fear of contracting waterborne diseases.
“The water might come into contact with our underground sewage systems which, when consumed by our children, could result in diseases like cholera,” said Ms Koech.

According to the locals, the wall, which they say was erected without consultations, first caused floods in 2015 and has remained a nightmare since.

“In the last rainy season (2015), flooding was experienced on the plots neighbouring your property,” the residents say in their letter.

“The few homes around here were greatly distressed by this abnormal flooding and we informed you of this.”

Mr Kiarie asked Northlands City to “lower the spill way level and remove or improve what you are calling the containment wall so that we can revert to the conditions that pertained earlier or apply any other conditions that do not pose any threat of flooding to our homes”.

However, it is emerging that the developers of Northlands City and the dam owners did not take any action despite the residents’ threat to hold them accountable for any damages caused by storm water.

Mr James Kimani, a resident, said they have held several meetings with the developers of Northlands City and agreed that culverts be built by the city developers along earmarked points to stop flood water from collecting at their homes but that is yet to happen.

Cars caught up in floods along Kangundo Road
Cars caught up in floods along Kangundo Road Bypass intersection on Thursday morning. PHOTO | COURTESY

“All we want now is for the developers to create a spillway for the flood water and lower the level of the dam’s spillway to avert a situation where the water levels in the dam increase and burst the banks,” said Mr Kimani.

Northlands City communications office was yet to issue a statement on the floods and the conflict by the time of going to press.

The dam is situated along the Eastern Bypass next to Brookside collection and cooling centre in Kiambu County. It is located about a kilometre from Clay Works factory on Thika Road.

Varsityville residents say the size of the water reservoir has been increasing gradually since 2012.

Around May, the locals told the Nation, the firm began dredging the dam to enable it hold more water and raised its spillway.

An embankment built on the boundary dividing the estate and the dam has now blocked the natural flow of water into the dam, leading to flooding in the estate on a stretch of about two kilometres.

Once complete, the Kenyatta family-owned Northlands City will sit on 11,800 acres of land and will accommodate an estimated 250,000 people working and living within its boundaries.

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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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