It was a dark night, evenly lit up by countless stars. They shone and twinkled, as stars are wont to do.
A million dazzling specks of illumination, and yet the night was still dark.
The small burning log Lela held in front of her was swallowed up by the darkness just a few feet in every direction.
She ran, instinct more than anything else guiding her. She’d been this way before.
Unease had been palpable over the village for days. Silence in places that were never quiet. Averted eyes told of an irrational fear laying a pall over the village.
Lela almost tripped over a fallen log as memories from earlier that night shot a bolt of fear through her and she stumbled for a second, but her lithe frame never gave up balance … catlike, she regained her balance so quickly it looked like she had done it on purpose.
“You need to leave,” her parents had shaken her from her sleep.
“Go to the tree … Now!”
“Which …” she tried to feign ignorance but was cut off.
“We know … go there, hide until you know it is safe, you hear? Don’t come back until you know for sure,” Mama ordered.
A quick hug and Lela fled.
“Run,” she’d whispered to herself, “You’ve got to get back in time.”
The air was cool, whipping past her as she ran. It was refreshing, so much so that she lost herself in the activity of moving.
She leapt over bushes and ducked under low branches, her nimble mind navigating her through the dense forest.
This was what she loved the most, tearing into the forest as far as she could go, much farther than she was allowed to go, deeper and deeper each time … until she’d stumbled upon the ‘fabled’ baobab tree.
Wide, almost too wide, but beautiful in its girth and awe-inspiring. You knew it was special by how massive and tall it appeared.
Set far from all the others, it was a spectacle, rising majestically into the sky.
She approached cautiously, almost afraid of what she would find but tinged with an excitement.
She had been going back ever since she first discovered her baobab, whenever she could sneak away unnoticed and slip back unannounced and unmissed.
Just then she stopped, catching her breath. The sky was mesmerising, a sprinkling of stars bright in the dark-deep of the heavenly carpet.
Against the outline of tree branches, it was a sight that caught your breath.
Lela stood captivated, transfixed then started as she recalled the reason she was out here.
She ran on and the fiery flame she held in front of her trailed glowing sparks as she swept through the forest, shocking sleeping creatures and disturbing nocturnal ones.
Squawks and the fluttering of wings accompanied her until she burst into a clearing. There it was.
Reaching up into the orchestra of stars, the baobab’s branches seemingly organised yet scattered wildly, tempestuous in beauty.
Lela felt the familiar surge of energy as she dashed toward it and disappeared inside its boughs.
“Kneel … I’ll not be asking again,” a tall, angry looking Manu said, his blade raised.
One by one the village people huddled in small groups and slumped to their knees. Some squatted, afraid but not willing to show it.
“The elders decided a long time ago, we’d do away with our old traditions. That we would surrender our fierceness … for what?” the man spat, his eyes glinting in the red and black shadows cast by the flares held by his hoard of lieutenants, who were shifting uneasily as if not as sure as their leader, but lacking the conviction that made him the only truly dangerous one.
“We were destroying everything around us,” a clear voice answered in the night as an old man stepped forward.
“The trees, the forest, the rivers … all we cared about was opposing one another. We were fighting ourselves …”
“Be silent!” a young man roared. In a few broad strides he was at the elder’s throat with his blade, “We can do it whichever way you prefer, but I would suggest that you listen carefully. Now, kneel.”
Manu was a man angry at the world for his own failings. He had found solace in being angry, found a cause to channel his rage into the flames of passion around him.
A supposedly boisterous, charismatic but weak character, he sought power, needing to feel in control and be seen as worthy and powerful.
“Why can’t we use their side of the forest? Huh?” Manu had whispered harshly to a group of men.
“We could get a lot of really good wood,” agreed another.
“Clear the land, graze the cows …” intoned another.
“There so much in that forest, just waiting for us …” Manu drifted off, seeing in his mind’s eye a tree taller than any he had ever stumbled upon, but one he dreamt of many a night.
Lela ran back carefully now that she had got what she came for.
Trying to land softly on the balls of her feet, trying not to rattle the pouch strapped to her back, her heart hammered so hard, she thought the whole forest could hear her.
This had started as a secret hobby but now games time was over and she was heading down a path she’d always known she would tread, but somehow had never mentally prepared for.
Ducking under a half fallen tree, she stopped short as her eyes registered the orange dots of fire ahead; she was back at the village.
Slowly, a shadow slinking in and out of sight, Lela moved closer and flexed her muscles, warmed up and surer than she had ever been.
Calculating where she would have the clearest view, she inched over to the tree and began scaling it.
From her vantage point, she adjusted the ornately carved bow in her arms and lifted the first gleaming arrow into its notch, then let loose.
The arrow, hollow and specially designed to let off a chilling scream, caused everyone to freeze momentarily, unsure of what was happening.
Then there was another, and another as Lela settled into the routine.
She was clam now, firmly focused and otherworldly.
“What’s this?” Manu shrieked as an arrow whistled past his head. What devil screamed so? Are these flying things alive?”
Manu had never planned to die for this cause or any other for that matter.
“Argh! The hell with this!” he turned and stumbled away from this accursed place.
The sight of him streaking across the village and into the darkness caused a mass desertion, every villager for himself.
Lela’s fingers relaxed as she let off a few remaining arrows and smugly watched the retreating backs of the attackers.
Then she dropped lithely off the tree and into the forest she ran. A gleaming sprite.
The myth of the “guardian of the forest” was told many times and until her death, many swore they often glimpsed a catlike shadow, deep in the thick canopies of green.
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.