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Lack of power foils Nyanza, Western growth as blackouts plague region

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By EDWIN OKOTH
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If you are in western Kenya for the festivities, you have probably have not been experiencing a full blast of the holidays; thanks to the frequent power outages.

Electricity in the region, stretching all the way from parts of Kericho, is highly rationed and it may have become worse as many urban dwellers trooped to the villages to join family members in celebrating Christmas and ushering the New Year.

With rapid growth in generation capacity to some 2,800MW in a country whose peak demands hardly crosses 1,800MW, one may wonder just why with the extra 1000MW, some people still have to live in the dark.

Well here is the answer. Western Kenya and the North Rift have recorded almost a double increase in power demand without a commensurate boost in supply in the past one year, according to the latest data from Kenya Power.

South Nyanza in particular doubled its electricity demand for the domestic load from 51-Gigawatt hours (GWh) to 106GWh. Similar increases were recorded in the small commercial load (34-54GWh) and the large commercial and industrial load(35-49GWh).

Despite huge increase in power demand driven by increased connectivity that the government has been rapidly implementing since 2014, lack of transmission has been the party breaker and perhaps why you may have had the blackout on Christmas Day.

The Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) was expected to have completed a 300-kilometre line from Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu to evacuate the geothermal power to serve the western region by February 2018.

The line, which comprises 400, 220 and 132KV network, is the missing link between the region and the idle power at Olkaria. A mix of wayleave headwinds, underfunding and contractual failures by the builder has held the most critical link to power western Kenya.

Ketraco records show the line, which has now been revised to be completed in February 2019, has only consumed Sh2.05 billion in its building with Sh957 million spent on wayleave acquisition. The line is expected to cost Sh19.8 billion by its completion.

As a result, the region has been relying on the expensive 65MW Muhoroni Gas Turbine, which can hardly meet growing demand. The country is also trying to fill the void through 50MW import from Uganda.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter confirmed that the region’s power rationing is largely due to the missing link between Olkaria and Kisumu. The CS said the completion of the line would be given priority as it is a major contributor in reducing the cost of power in the country.

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“Once we are done with the line, you will not hear of any rationing in that part of the country. We hope to have even one more line supplying the region as an alternative for stability just like we did in Nairobi,” Mr Keter said.

The government uses the energy mix strategy where the cheapest source of power is allowed into the grid first in an offtake plan to see consumers billed less on charges such as the fuel cost, which goes to compensate independent power producers using the expensive diesel to generate thermal power.

By using the Mohoroni thermal plant to supply western Kenya, for example, every consumer bears the brunt in their power bills.

Power transmission is among the most capital-intensive ventures in the supply but it plays perhaps the most critical role in achieving reliable and extensive connection. Kenya hopes to have all its citizens connected to power by 2022 in a Sh270 billion plan recently launched in Nairobi.

The country has been investing heavily in the generation side with renewables such as the recent Sh13 billion solar project in Garissa said to be injecting 48MW into the grid and the Sh70 billion Lake Turkana Wind project which is injection over 200MW already.

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently broke ground for another 83MW, Olkaria 1 Unit 6 Geothermal power plant set to be completed in 2021 to push up KenGen’s installed energy capacity which currently stands at 1,631MW. The firm is expected to generate 4,200MW in a decade from now.

The huge investment in generation has, however, left behind the transmission which now leaves regions such as western Kenya in the dark, which is akin to growing crops and lacking the roads to transport them.

The rationing is also a missed opportunity to sell electricity and dissuades industrialisation with an overall lag on economic growth for the country. “If an investor comes now and proposes to set up a huge manufacturing plant in western Kenya, we will just tell them we are sorry because power supply there is not sufficient at all,” a source at the Ministry of Energy confided.

Perhaps this explains why there is zero demand for Large Commercial and Industrial Load (both 66 and 132kV), which is used by large manufacturers, in the entire South Nyanza. Western Kenya has less than 20GWh in both categories.



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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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