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Saved by a song – Daily Nation

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About two hours away, is Kitale Town, part of Kenya’s food basket. The road to Murombus Village, from the nearest health facility – Chepararia Sub-County Hospital – winds through a hill, and for a moment, one catches their breath twice at the unadulterated beauty, then the horrific story of the Kamatira blackspot, where a van plunged and killed all aboard in 2017.

Samuel, the only man present, is the lead singer. They made up the song specially to welcome Schola, a programme officer at the non-governmental organisation Action Against Hunger, which helped form the group.

The song, like others, are just not a symbol of hospitality; they save lives. They helped save Silvia’s eighth pregnancy.

After the usual pleasantries, the singing continues. Elaborate and culturally defiant. Since 2014, Samuel has been composing songs for the group to share basic, but crucial public health messages that span handwashing to curb killer diseases, family planning and other reproductive health issues.

After prayer, they start with Kenama, the first song.

“Let us breastfeed continuously for six months and start planning for the next pregnancy after that.”

Another goes: “When you conceive, even if you just think you have conceived, go to the clinic to see the doctor. After delivery go the clinic. Even if you are a housewife, go to the clinic. Even if you are working go to the clinic.”

Another comes with admonition: “We should wash our hands, wash your hands before eating. Wash your hands after going to the toilet. Do not be lazy. Lazy people are stupid.”

The soloist holds an improvised water can, cut out at the bottom so that water flows when it is hang outside the toilet.

They have songs to encourage use of bed nets to prevent malaria, and songs on the the use of toilets instead of practising open defecation and songs for other public health hazards.

Samuel chose to use songs because the Pokot love to sing.

“This is a good way to get them to internalise what (the public health messages) they are singing about.”

It was this singing that attracted a heartbroken Silvia to the group.

Married to a teacher, Silvia had had two older children and she desired another child. Her husband was teaching far away in Ortum and she was left to navigate pregnancies with traditional birth attendants as was the custom.

The first miscarriage was in 2003. It was a good day. She had eaten, done all her chores and then lay down for a nap. Sharp pain woke her up and the whimpering set in.

Without transport to get her to hospital, she endured the agony the whole night. The following morning, her husband got a vehicle from a neighbour, but by the time they got to hospital, the baby was gone.

Between sobs, Silvia narrates how she lost a second baby while unconscious, then a third, fourth, fifth and a sixth.

Trying to cope with the pain of loss with no counselling, the seventh baby turned her into a philosopher.

“I thought, ‘Maybe God is trying to teach me a lesson’ but when I lost the seventh baby, I gave up on being a mother. I didn’t want to try again,” she told Healthy Nation, adding that she kept trying to replace the emptiness brought about by the death of her babies by getting pregnant soon thereafter.

Having lost seven pregnancies (miscarriages or immediately after birth), Silvia was just about to give up hope.

Then one day in 2013, she heard a bell ring and suddenly, a throng of women passed her home on the way to their Tuesday mother-to-mother support group meeting. Some were her friends and they tagged her along. That’s when she met Samuel.

“I learnt things that nobody had taught us – sleeping under nets and the need to use pit latrines instead of the bushes.”

“I heard the man (Samuel) talk about the need to space children, why we should wait before getting pregnant and the importance of taking folic and iron supplements to keep us from giving birth to deformed babies,” she recalls.

Lack of sufficient iron is associated with anaemia, low birth weight, cognitive defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.

According to the World Health Organisation, iron deficiencies contribute to one in five maternal deaths globally. To improve maternal health, the Ministry of Health drafted the iron folic acid supplementation (IFAS) policy in 2013 to address iron deficiencies among pregnant women.

All pregnant women should take a combined tablet of IFAS daily from conception to delivery. The lack of iron is part of a larger nutritional problem called hidden hunger, where the body lacks iron and other micronutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, zinc and iodine.

Mothers who lack these micronutrients, give birth prematurely or to babies who are too small (low birth weight) and cannot fight the simplest diseases.

In Kenya, 22 out of 1,000 babies die in the first month following birth. In December 2018, the uptake of IFAS among pregnant women in Kenya stood at 71 per cent, while in some instances, only eight per cent of women reported taking iron supplements for 90 days or more during their last pregnancy. West Pokot IFAS coverage is relatively good at 80 per cent.

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Despite these measures, there is often a missing link between women like Silvia and health services. Many well intentioned health projects have failed to yield fruits as the communities they seek to help fail to embrace them.

On the week of this interview, West Pokot County was being declared open defecation free. After many years of spending money on behaviour change campaigns that teach the public about the need to use toilets and making minimal progress in certain fronts, the county’s Director for Health Dr Nobert Ajuoga was elated.

“Being declared open-defecation free may look like a very small thing to others, but I am extremely happy because only I can understand the lives, the money and human resources that I will save now,” he said.

On the maternal and child health front, simple songs, rather than elaborate behaviour change campaigns, are bearing fruit. From listening to the songs at the support group, Silvia made some resolutions.

“He said I should wait for six months before trying to get pregnant again. I decided to wait for a year. When I got pregnant in 2014, I went to hospital immediately and attended all the four antenatal clinics where I was given the iron and folic acid supplements. The baby was being monitored and the nurses would tell me it is okay”

Faith Chepchumba was born in Chepararia Sub-County Hospital, during Silvia’s eighth and final attempt at motherhood.

Kitchen garden in dry land saves the day

Health problems in rural settings like Murombus take place in many forms and are worsened by poverty that leads to lack of diversity in diet and food insecurity.

With the help of Action Against Hunger, Murombus Mother to Mother Support Group started a kitchen garden in which they all learn to plant traditional vegetables such as kunde and terere, as well as beetroot and tomatoes.

An agriculture extension officer came for their support group meeting, set up a demonstration garden at the home they meet in, and through song, each member was sent to replicate the kitchen garden in their homes.

“Tea is not food, you know! You have to eat real food,” one of the women chimes as she tends to vegetables in the garden.

Mary Kepkama, a government employed and paid community health worker, told Healthy Nation that cows, goats and sheep – the main source of protein in the region – are often considered men’s property and are riddled with conflict.

ENERGY-SAVING STOVE CLAYS

“Women cannot slaughter livestock for food, so they kept chicken for eggs and meat for subsistence and for sale,” says Kepkama.

But this part of West Pokot is very cold, which resulted in deaths of chicks. To get around this, the group made an energy-saving clay traditional stove that doubles as a heater for the chicks.

The stove has three compartments. One side has an opening for firewood, the middle compartment is used to store the cooked food, and the last compartment houses the chicks, and has an opening to the outside, allowing them to walk out into a space enclosed with wire mesh to protect them from hawks.

The group also has a saving scheme, through which they collect Sh1,000 per member every month.

The money goes into two accounts – one account is used to bail each other out when they need money for feeds and other bills, while the other is used to provide loans at 10 per cent interest.

The Saturday savings scheme meetings are so sacred, that whoever comes in late, even by a minute, is penalised Sh100.

To boost their income, the group also makes traditional bead jewellery in sets of a headband, bangle, anklet and necklace, which they sell for Sh3,500 a set. They save the larger portion, and use the rest for household needs.

So well-fed has Murombus Village become, that the county nutrition department and Unicef no longer consider it as one of the West Pokot villages where children’s weight and height must be measured, for admission into feeding programmes to fight malnutrition. –



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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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