The death toll from a cyclone that ravaged three southern African countries last week headed Thursday towards 400, as officials estimated that more than 1.7 million people had been affected by the storm and 15,000 people were still stranded in floodwater.
As the toll surged from the region’s biggest storm in years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced plans to tackle an emerging threat to survivors from malaria and cholera.
Cyclone Idai smashed into the coast of central Mozambique last Friday, unleashing hurricane-force winds and rains that flooded the hinterland and drenched eastern Zimbabwe.
Mozambican Land and Environmental Minister Celso Correia said 242 lives had been lost and 15,000 out of 18,000 stranded people still needed to be saved, many of them on rooftops or even in trees.
“Yesterday we had counted 15,000 people that still need rescue today — 15,000 people who are in bad shape. They are alive, we are communicating with them, delivering food, but we need to rescue them and take them out,” he told reporters.
A total of 65,000 people are in transit centres, he said.
“Our priority now is to make sure we take food, shelter and medicine to the people that are isolated in small islands or in big islands and villages,” Correia said at Beira airport, the humanitarian relief coordination hub.
On Wednesday there were just five helicopters rescuing the marooned, according to Adrien Nance who is heading the operation.
“It’s encouraging that the humanitarian response is really starting to come to scale. But more help is needed,” said Jamie LeSueur of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Herve Verhoosel said the number of people affected in Mozambique was 600,000, but warned: “That number will definitely go up.”
Ultimately, around 1.7 million people in Mozambique will need assistance, Verhoosel said in Geneva.
Pall bearers waded through flood waters carrying a black coffin containing the remains of Tomas Joaquim Chimukme, who died after his house collapsed on him in Beira.
In Zimbabwe, state broadcaster ZBC said the death toll had risen to 139, up from 100 on Wednesday, while the WFP said its estimates of the number of people there affected by the cyclone had jumped from 15,000 to 200,000.
In Chimanimani, close to Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique, “some 90 percent of the district has been significantly damaged,” Verhoosel said.
An AFP reporter in the area said the district had been cut off.
Roads had been gobbled up by massive sinkholes and bridges ripped to shreds by flash floods — a landscape that Zimbabwe’s acting defence minister Perrance Shiri, who is also agriculture minister, said “resembles the aftermath of a full-scale war”.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, after touring the area, said the country would observe two days of mourning from Saturday.
Mozambique declared three days of mourning, taking effect on Wednesday.
“In Rusitu, I saw unmitigated despair,” Mnangawa told reporters in Harare.
“Big boulders (were) recklessly strewn on what used be a settlement, a banana market and even a police post.”
At the police station, “both serving officers and prisoners were washed away alongside other government structures and private residences,” he said.
Mnangagwa also announced steps to cope with future disasters, including mapping the country for weather-related risk, creating a national disaster fund and stepping up global advocacy on climate change.
In Malawi, the WHO said on Wednesday, the storm had affected 922,000 others, of whom 82,000 had been displaced.
The WHO announced an emergency plan for 10,000 people.
“The displacement of large numbers of people and the flooding triggered by Cyclone Idai significantly increases the risk of malaria, typhoid and cholera,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the agency’s regional director for Africa.
The three countries are some of the poorest in the region and depend heavily on foreign aid. The UN launched an appeal for assistance overnight.
“We do not yet know enough about the level of destruction to give an accurate estimate of the amount of this call for funds, but it will be important,” spokesman Farhan Haq said at UN headquarters in New York.
Aid agencies said they were prepared for the cyclone but not for the massive floods that followed.
Mozambique bore the brunt from rivers that flow downstream from its neighbours.
Air force personnel from Mozambique and South Africa have been drafted in to fly rescue missions and distribute aid in central Mozambique.
Roads out of Beira have been destroyed and the city itself, home to around half a million people, has been 90-percent damaged or destroyed.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.