August is sometimes associated with ill fortune in Kenya and this year’s mentioned month was indeed painful for the Kenyan sports fraternity.
On August 8, the world was shocked by the sudden death of 2015 World 400m hurdles men’s champion Nicholas Bett. The accomplished hurdler died in a road accident in Nandi aged 28. He was the first Kenyan to win a world championship title in hurdles.
His death, officially confirmed by the Ministry for Sports, was headline news in the country, a promising athletics career cruelly cut short.
He was a two-time bronze medallist at the African Athletics Championships. His career had seen him compete in 400m, 800m, 110m hurdles, javelin throw and 4x400m relay where he posted decent outcomes. Bett was the twin brother to Olympian Haron Koech.
Thirteen days later, on August 21, Kenyans woke up to the news that former Harambee Stars, Tusker, and Utalii midfielder Bernard “Makambo” Agunda had passed on at his home in Umoja Estate, Nairobi, aged 41.
Agunda skippered the Kenya team that won the 2002 Castle Lager Cup under coach Jacob “Ghost” Mulee. He also featured in the successful Tusker side that won the 2008 Council of East and Central Africa (Cecafa) Club Championship in Tanzania.
Even as football mourned Agunda, the sport was thrown into further anguish on August 24 when former Harambee Stars player and coach Sammy Nyongesa died at a hospital in Nakuru.
Nyongesa is better remembered for his work with Nakuru Youth Olympics Centre in the 1980s. He helped mould some of Kenya’s best football talents of that time including Ambrose “Golden Boy” Ayoyi, Sammy Taabu and Dick Anyangu.
Lesser known, he was the father of former Harambee Stars, AFC Leopards and Ulinzi Stars star striker Michael Baraza. Nyongesa also played for Kenya Farmers Association (KFA), Abaluhya FC (Abeingo FC) and was the founder of now defunct Bata Bullets of Limuru.
Though not a Kenyan, the death of former Harambee Stars coach, Henri Michel on April 24 at the age of 70 cannot go unmentioned.
The tenure of the Frenchman, unveiled under a blast of optimism, lasted just three months and was more of a circus with stories of delayed payments dominating the newspaper pages than his exploits on the pitch with fast fading Harambee Stars.
In fact, the French government had to intercede on his behalf as he fought for his dues. Capped 58 times by Les Bleus, he guided France to the 1984 Olympic title. While Football Kenya Federation was mum on his demise, thus said the French football union (UNFP): “Henri Michel, a colossus of French football.”
October was another tough month for sports. On October 11, former Mwamba rugby winger and veteran referee Osborne Bulemi died aged 59, after a battle with diabetes.
He joined Kenya Rugby Referees Society (KRRS) in 1992, served as the society’s secretary and chairman, and also had a stint as referees’ administrator at Kenya Rugby Union. KRRS honoured him with a Life Time Award in 2016.
Also on October 11, Thika United captain Dennis Lewa died following a grisly road accident at Fort Ternan. Lewa, a promising footballer and Harambee Stars trialist, was heading to Kakamega to sign a contract with Kenyan Premier League side Kakamega Homeboyz.
Sixteen days later, former boxer Richard “Tiger” Murunga, 65, died at a Nairobi hospital while undergoing treatment on October 27. He had been confined to a wheelchair for many years. He won the boxing welterweight bronze at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
That Kenya does not honour its yesteryear star athletes can be best exemplified by the case of Naftali Bon who died on November 2 aged 73. Bon, a former policeman, was part of the Kenya 4x400m quartet that also featured Daniel Rudisha, Charles Asati and Munyoro Nyamau that won silver at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
At the time of his demise he was living in abject poverty long forgotten by the government. At his funeral there was neither an official presence of the government nor a tribute from the authorities.
Two months earlier, on September 3, the athletics fraternity had mourned the passing on of one of Kenya’s best distance runner, Paul Koech. The 1998 World Half Marathon Champion passed on at Nairobi’s Forces Memorial Hospital after a short illness.
He was 49 and a co-opted member in Athletics Kenya Executive Committee. In 1997, Koech ran the third fastest 10,000 in history then, a race won by the great Paul Tergat under a new world record.
He won the Kenya national cross country championships an impressive three times and was a World Cross Country Championship silver medallist in 1998.
And on Thursday, Charles Mukora, 83, a former chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock), died after a long illness, leaving behind four children – Patrick, Patricia, Beth and Susan. His wife, Salome Wanjiru Mukora, died on May 21 last year.
Mukora was the man behind the success of Olympic trailblazer Kipchoge Keino in the 1960s and 70s before taking up sports management in the late 70s.
Mukora made an impact as coach, administrator and politician. Mukora also coached Naftali Temu and was in charge, as head coach, at the 1968 (Mexico) and 1972 (Munich) Olympic Games.
He served as vice president of the Commonwealth Games Federation and enjoyed the rare distinction of having been an athlete, coach and administrator at the highest global level, representing Kenya in both football and athletics at regional competitions.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
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.
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.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
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
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
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.
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.
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.