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MAKORI: Why government must take sport more seriously in 2019

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By ELIAS MAKORI
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Happy New Year! It’s my sincere hope that you’ve been blessed to welcome 2019 in good cheer, and with fresh spirit to surpass the achievements of the last 12 months.

The new year brings with it new challenges, and in sports, they are gargantuan.

It’s a year in which government, through the Ministry of Sport and Heritage, must buckle up and get ready for either a smooth drive or bumpy ride.

There’s no room for playing Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Blowing hot and cold, as government does so often with vintage fashion.

Having been in office for approximately 10 months now, Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Mohammed Echesa has made commendable progress.

But he must be prepared to be judged on how he handles this important docket in the next few months if he wishes to, unlike most of his nonchalant predecessors, leave a positive legacy.

Granted, with a paltry vote from the exchequer, it will always be difficult for this perennially under-funded ministry to make meaningful impact, but huge ground can be gained through prudent policy formulation and wise decision-making.

To his credit, Echesa has done well to, inter alia, reduce uppercuts unleashed by warring boxing officials, make some headway in trying to have cricket leaders play with a straight bat and successfully, albeit in fits and starts, kick-start refurbishment of our worn-out stadiums.

His skills in mediating aside, how the former boxer handles the straight punches that come this year will make or break him and his administration at Kencom House.

There are many key events this year, including the African Games in Morocco and IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Denmark, but, principally, four key areas in 2019 draw my attention as being critical to the future of our sport.

These are Kenya’s return to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in March, the Safari Rally’s running of a World Rally Championship (WRC) candidate event in July along with the build-up to next year’s Tokyo Olympics and the IAAF World Under-20 Championships, the latter which Nairobi will host.

And on all these fronts, we are lagging worryingly behind schedule, with everything pointing at financial and administrative challenges.

For instance, Football Kenya Federation requires huge funding to run its programmes this year, with $2 million (Sh200 million) needed for the Afcon campaign alone.

Members of the WRC Safari Project team, that was put together about 14 months ago, haven’t been paid their allowances ever since they assumed office and at this rate, operations could, painfully and embarrassingly, grind to a halt.

Meanwhile, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the 2020 IAAF World Under-20 Championships, which was to have been gazetted by October 15, 2018, is yet to be formed.

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Besides, the approximately Sh126 million required to prepare Team Kenya for these championships is yet to be voted at a time the team should have been a month old in camp.

And with the Tokyo Olympics fast drawing closer, it would be interesting to see if the government and National Olympic Committee of Kenya can pull off a scandal-free build-up.

Most crucially, it raises concern that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) granted Kenya’s 2019 Safari Rally candidate event status with a view to having the event reinstated into the WRC series in 2020.

This means that Kenya must run a flawless, world class Safari Rally from July 5 to 7 this year in order to be included in the 2020 global circuit when the calendar is drawn in September.

But with the LOC team still chasing allowances and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) yet to issue payment guidelines since their formation last September, we are certainly in deep waters.

The apparent false start by Lydia Cherop Mengich and her 11 commissioners at SRC means that even if the LOC for the IAAF World Under-20 Championships is constituted today, its members too will serve without pay.
What’s more worrying is that officials from both the FIA and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have already trained their sights on Nairobi, monitoring our level of preparedness, or lack of it.

In fact, in just two weeks’ time, a high-level team of 15 IAAF officials will descend on Nairobi for an important site visit that could make or break Kenya’s chances of hosting yet another major global age-group competition in 2020.

Similarly, Frenchwoman Michelle Mouton – the legendary Safari Rally driver famed for her Audi Quattro days – will soon be here as an FIA expert to assess Kenya’s preparations for both the candidate event in July and fully-fledged WRC run next year.

But with our trademark delays in securing financing for such important sports programmes, the future continues to look bleak.

Tough decisions will have to be made at Kencom House otherwise we shall lose the fight to organize a WRC Safari Rally and be stripped of hosting rights for the 2020 IAAF World Under-20 Championships.

How embarrassing it would be, considering President Uhuru Kenyatta is Patron of the WRC Safari Project!

And unless Echesa hits the ground running this week, we shall also travel to the Afcon finals and Tokyo Olympics merely to make up the numbers.

Government must get the horse out of the paddocks immediately by ensuring the much-trumpeted National Sports Fund is not still-born, especially as the resources and manpower available at Kencom House are insufficient to run meaningful sports programmes.

I wish you, and our sports people, a happy, rewarding 2019.



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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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