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Lack of shelter for victims slows down Kenya’s war against human trafficking: The Standard

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A special police unit that has been deployed to Isiolo in the wake of narcotics trafficking, terrorism and human trafficking. [Bruno Muntunga, Standard]

 When police stormed an erotic bar in Mombasa, *Binsa was happy that help had finally arrived.

What Binsa (not her real name) didn’t know was that she was saved from a human trafficking perpetrator’s ‘bondage’ into a police cell, a classic application of ‘out of the frying pan into the fire.
Binsa’s sigh of relief turned into such a horrifying nightmare, that more than a year later, memories of the treatment in a Kenyan police cell are fresh in her mind.  
Her experience is similar to hundreds of other victims rescued from traffickers only to find themselves bundled into police cars straight into police cells, subjecting them to more trauma and anguish.
SEE ALSO: Over 1000 discharged as Kenya records 389 new Covid-19 cases
Binsa and 11 other women had been trafficked from Nepal and India under the guise of giving them jobs but on arrival in Kenya were forced to become mujra dancers to entertain male patrons who pay for services, including forced sex.
They were arrested in April 2019 and taken to Nyali Police Station sparking outcry from NGOs such as the Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART), which sued the government for the gross violation of the victims’ rights.
Unfortunately, police cells are the immediate and available option for the police when they rescue victims of human trafficking and related crimes.
“In cases where a child is for example, defiled by the father, the police have had to keep such victims within the police station or in some instances in the cell. They cannot return them home. They have also been forced to keep women who have come in- in the cells,” Judy Gitau, Equality Now’s Regional Coordinator for Africa explains.
“We also have instances where nurses -who have received victims and treated them – have had to take them home. We have a partner in Kisumu, as recently as two weeks ago, who took a victim of rape to her own home, because where else do you take her? Do you turn her to the street or back home where she has been violated?”   
SEE ALSO: Former FKF president Nyamweya loses key staffer
Though Kenya’s progress in responding to human trafficking is commendable, existing structural and procedural gaps have continued to obstruct the wheels of justice, leading to further violation of victims’ rights as well as creating loopholes for traffickers to walk scot-free.
As a signatory to international conventions against human trafficking, Kenya is also obliged under the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act 2010 to provide ‘appropriate shelter and other basic needs’ as well as ‘psychosocial support’.
However, the law has been criticized over staring gaps that further violate the victims’ rights and give perpetrators the leeway to escape justice.
The Act recommends 30 years imprisonment and an option of paying a fine of Sh30 million watering down the seriousness of the organised crime.
Awareness: Young At Haart group performs a play titled ‘Stop Human Trafficking’. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

With Kenya identified as a source, transit and destination of sex trafficking and forced labour, the Global Trafficking in Persons Report has since 2015 ranked Kenya in the second tier – meaning that Kenya does ‘not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so’
SEE ALSO: What Kabogo thinks of President Uhuru
The dearth of state-run victim support services contributes to the poor ranking.
This is because legal and structural loopholes have exposed victims leaving them to be treated like criminals despite the horror suffered in the hands of their traffickers.
Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji reckons that over-reliance on partner organisations to provide shelters for victims, “is a big impediment to the effective management of human trafficking, especially the protection of victims.”
He says: “We tend to rely more on civil society groups and other organizations like the United Nations. What we have seen in Kenya is a lot of people who are arrested are the victims themselves. The implication of taking the victims to a cell is traumatising – it is basically removing them from one hard situation to another”.
Such a trend, Haji warns, runs the risk of only disrupting a crime instead of going after the criminals and makes it ‘difficult for victims to cooperate’ reducing the chances of securing justice and dismantling local and international trafficking syndicates.
Without winning the trust of the victims, the DPP says, successful prosecution and conviction are difficult and made worse by lack of adequate international cooperation in tracing the origin of the syndicates with deep and far-reaching roots.
Lwakhakha town at the Kenya-Uganda border: Human traffickers usually avoid official border points but they are also known to compromise security officials. [Nathan Ochunge/Standard]

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Jacqueline Njagi, a Senior Principal Prosecution Counsel, who heads the Sexual Gender-Based Violence Division at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions recalls an incident in 2019 when 13 children trafficked from Somalia were rescued in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate.
The State had to grapple with “where to shelter them” until the court directed them to be taken to the Nairobi Children’s Remand Centre – a place set aside for children awaiting judgment over various crimes like murder, theft and loitering.
“The case was taken to the children’s court, but before that, the question was where they would be kept. After talks with colleagues, I contacted a private shelter, where they were kept but we had to use our own resources to feed them for four days until the court committed them to the Nairobi children’s remand home,” Njagi recalls.
The incident is similar to the Mombasa one in which the 12 women were arrested, taken to a police cell before the state found shelter and subsequently repatriated them.
Whereas it is easier to find shelter for children compared to adults, Trace Kenya Executive Director, Paul Adhoch, says Kenya needs to speedily establish a solid legal framework for the provision of shelter for victims.   
In the absence of a legislative framework, Adhoch fears that private rescue centres – that are willing to take in victims – face procedural hurdles that lead to delays or even rejection of victims due to legal and safety implications.  
Such gaps have forced anti-human trafficking bodies and state organs to follow lengthy legal processes to have victims placed in shelters.
“For adult shelters, there is a shortage, no crisis of availability of shelters for children. But what we have are children rescue centers used temporarily to hold victims. We use court orders to temporarily put them in shelters,” Adhoch says.
CSOs that offer rescue centres on the other hand face capacity and resource challenges with a recent spike in the number of victims in need of shelter and safe houses.
Since the onset of Covid-19 in March 2020, Kenya has reported an increase in cases of violence against women, children and even men leading to a sharp rise in the number of victims in need of protection.
The writer interviews the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is among the international organizations that have warned of an increase in the number of victims of human trafficking during the Covid-19 pandemic due to increased vulnerability.
“With Covid-19 restricting movement, diverting law enforcement resources, and reducing social and public services, human trafficking victims have even less chance of escape and finding help. As we work together to overcome the global pandemic, countries need to keep shelters and hotlines open, safeguard access to justice and prevent more vulnerable people from falling into the hands of organized crime,” says UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly.
Most of the partner organizations relied upon by the Government of Kenya to offer shelter were set up to serve a variety of victims including orphans, SGBV, street children and among other child offenders.
This, according to Njagi, runs the risk of not providing complete aftercare services, which include security, healthcare, psycho-social support, integration of victims and provision of other basics such as food and clothing.
“It is time the government thought of having a safe house because private ones offer only shelter which is not all rounded. You find they have one component and lack another. The government must have all components,” Njagi advises.
According to Adhoch, such an arrangement will allow a seamless judicial process, “once you rescue a victim, you know where to take them and you are sure they will not be criminalised.”
Whereas CSOs’ and NGOs’ role is to complement, anti-human trafficking crusaders believe it should be the government’s primary responsibility to provide shelter to secure victims, witnesses and evidence as one of the crucial interventions in the fight against human trafficking.
Therefore, Gitau is urging the national and county governments to consider aftercare shelters as a concurrent function supported in budgetary allocations.
“A lot of times we feel that the national government’s duty begins and ends with the investigation and prosecution but how do you ensure that your victim as the main complainant, in this case, is able to come to court, how do you ensure that he/she is not being further violated even if the case is not in court?”
Enhancing Africa’s Ability to Counter Transnational Crime (ENACT) Researcher, Mohamed Daghar further advises Kenya and its East African counterparts to develop frameworks to address causative factors that increase the vulnerability of victims, legal protection and operational hindsight and also the socio-economic challenges East Africans face that make them vulnerable to trafficking networks. “This translates to having a national employment policy in place.”
-Judie Kaberia is a fellow of the Resilience Fund of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime

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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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