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Uhuru’s trip to Cuba and life-changing goodies for Kenya

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By PATRICK LANG’AT
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If you were to ask Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary (CS) Monica Juma to name the most memorable State visit President Kenyatta made last year, she will not hesitate to name the historic trip in March to the island nation of Cuba.

The visit came barely a month after the CS was sworn into office and it was the first time a Kenyan Head of State was visiting the Caribbean island nation since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 2001.

It is during the trip that the President sealed a deal that saw 100 Cuban doctors come to Kenya in June. Forty-seven would work as specialists and 53 family physicians would be deployed to the counties.

At the same time, Kenya secured space for its 50 doctors to study in Cuba, famed for its world-class healthcare system.

In an interview with the Nation, Dr Juma described 2018 as the year when Kenya “could not have been at a better place globally”, and how the Cuban trip opened the stage for many other global engagements.

“That State visit to Cuba set parameters of what form we would wish the visits to take in terms of value. We have been very careful in our preparations for State visits since that time,” she said, adding, the ministry has focused on re-engineering State visits.

The CS said that Kenya was reviewing the relationships it has with other nations to monitor progress and seek room for improvement.

“What has happened in the last 10 months is the insistence of making sure that every move is bringing returns that are concrete and measurable, and it has been very deliberate in doing so,” Dr Juma said in reflection of a year that saw Kenya attract global attention.

The CS spoke just a few days after Kenya organised the inaugural global Blue Economy Summit co-hosted with Canada and Japan — a forum that brought together leaders to discuss the untapped potential of the oceans, lakes, and rivers.

Other highlights of Mr Kenyatta’s global agenda were his meetings with US President Donald Trump in Washington DC, British Prime Minister Theresa May in Britain and Chinese president Xi Jinping — all within seven days!

While in China, the President, who visited the Asian giant again in September, was seeking to steady an uneven balance of trade. He was also seeking to cement past strong relations with Washington and London, with the latter being a prime source of market for Kenya’s goods, and the former, opening up new frontiers, including direct non-stop flights to New York.

This year, the President will host French President Emmanuel Macron, who will also be attending the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly tagged UNEA-4, from March 11 to March 15, 2019, Dr Juma said, adding that Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will be in Kenya in February.

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Kenya is seeking a non-permanent member slot in the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022, citing the 44 peace missions it has participated in, and the strategic role it has played in counter-terrorism.

Since his March 2013 election, President Kenyatta has made 77 foreign trips — more than double the 33 visits his predecessor Mwai Kibaki made in his 10-year rule.

Of these, President Kenyatta undertook 49 State visits that the ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended, saying, the trips had brought “immense benefits” to the country.

The other 27 are those he attended as treaty obligations like those of the East African Community, the African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the United Nations, among others.

Even as it straddles the global stage, Dr Juma wants Kenya to compete with continental giants like South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana in an expansionist drive that will see Nairobi open 12 new diplomatic offices in Africa within the next three years.

Kenya plans to open six full resident Missions in Africa in Accra, Abidjan, Dakar, Djibouti, Maputo and Rabat, as well as four consulates in Goma, Lagos, Arusha and Cape Town and two liaison offices in Kismayu and Hargeisa.

“We have not had the most optimal footprint in Africa and because we know you cannot deepen any relationship if you do not have an imprint, our policy is Pan-African because we believe Kenya is inextricably tied to the destiny of the continent,” she said.

At the same time, Kenya has intensified negotiations with other countries on visas, following President Kenyatta’s declaration that Africans will be allowed to get a visa at the point of entry.

East Africans will enjoy privileges similar to Kenyan citizens and will access the country with just an identity card.

Kenya has scored big with South Africa, which last month announced that students will be given visas for the duration of their studies. Previously, Kenyan students in South Africa had to come back to Nairobi to renew their visas before going back to continue their studies.

The country also scored big with Mozambique on visas. It has also led peace talks in South Sudan, besides having a peace-keeping mission in Somalia within its regional security agenda.



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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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