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Uhuru’s foreign trips good for Kenya, says CS Monica Juma

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The Foreign Affairs ministry has defended President Uhuru Kenyatta’s foreign trips saying they have helped project Kenya’s image globally and to promote the country as an investment destination of choice.

Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma revealed on Wednesday that the president has made 49 foreign trips since 2013, all of which she said have helped consolidate Kenya’s relevance internationally.

“Looking back to the last six years, I can confidently confirm that the high-level diplomacy paradigm has yielded manifold outcomes in three broad spheres; Kenya has established solid and productive relationships across the world – in Africa, Middle East, Americas, Europe, Asia and the other parts of the world,” Juma said.

She added: “Nairobi has become one of the most visited capitals for foreign heads of state and heads of government and preferred destination for international meetings and conferences, and most fundamentally, interest and investment in our country has grown a thousand fold – translating into economic growth.”

Juma spoke while presenting the ministry’s third quarterly press briefing at a Nairobi hotel. The presentation focused on Kenya’s strategy of leveraging its national interests on high-level diplomacy.

The CS revealed that this year alone, the President has had six high-level foreign trips that were aimed at fostering engagements that support the economy particularly the Big 4 agenda, social development; as well as regional peace and security.

Among the visits, she said, was the one to Cuba between March 14 and 17 that saw the president strike a deal for the deployment of 100 Cuban medical specialists to Kenya’s public health facilities.

The deal also saw 50 Kenyan medical practitioners travel to Cuba for post-postgraduate training.

Other notable foreign trip that Uhuru has made this year is the one to the US between August 24 – 27 where he struck two business deals worth Sh23.7 billion.

The deal, which largely factors investments in security, was reached after a meeting with US president Donald Trump at the warehouse.

Also read: Uhuru holds talks with top US business executives

The agreement was signed between the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and two private firms for financing the construction and operation of Kipeto Wind Farm.

The project will deliver 100 MW grid connected wind power plant in Kajiado County at a cost of Sh23.2 billion.

The remaining Sh500 million was committed towards expansion of Twiga Food distribution network with the aim of improving food security and wages for agricultural workers.

Chinese partnership 

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Uhuru’s most recent foreign trip that ignited public debate about Kenya’s dalliance with Chinese loans was the trip to Beijing for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit.

See: Uhuru secures $3.59 billion more from China to extend SGR to Kisumu

During the trip, Uhuru secured Public Private Partnership for two infrastructural projects – a 30 km expressway from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Westlands and the Development of Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zones in Mombasa.

Kenya also secured a deal to benefit from Sh6 trillion announced by President Xi Jinping to support development in Africa as well as Sh1 trillion Chinese Private Sector investment in Africa, among others.

“Besides the specifics outlined above, the engagements offered the opportunities for closer bilateral collaboration with the countries involved in line with the aspirations of the Kenya’s Foreign Policy as Kenya strives to entrench her leadership as an economic power within the region as well as achieve a desirable competitiveness globally,” CS Juma said.

The CS further revealed that Kenya has also been a participant in more than ten high level summits this year alone which generated substantial value to the gross national output.

They include the 19th Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State held in Uganda in February, the AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda held in March, the 20th COMESA Summit in Lusaka Zambia held in July and the AU Summit held in Addis Ababa in September.

Promoted Kenya’s export trade

Juma noted that as a result of Kenya’s growing foreign economic partnerships, Kenya’s exports have been on a gradual increase.

The CS noted that Kenya’s foreign exports across the world grew by 3.8 per cent to Sh5.7 trillion between 2013 and 2017 and registered almost one per cent growth between 2016 and 2017.

“From a continental perspective, almost 34 per cent of Kenya’s, exports by value were to other African countries with about 28 per cent to Europe and over 10 per cent to the Americas,” Juma said.

She said the leading export earners were tea, horticulture, articles of apparel and clothing accessories; and coffee.

These, she said, collectively accounted for 54.6 per cent of the total export merchandise.

Other than trade and promoting Kenya’s global status, Juma said that Uhuru’s foreign trips have also helped to promote peace diplomacy in troubled neighbouring countries like Somalia, South Sudan, and helped combat terrorism and violent extremism.

“This has translated into spurring global interest in claiming our rightful position as a gateway to East, Central and Southern Africa,” Juma said.

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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.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

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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