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US court ruling on herbicide sends shockwaves in Kenya

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By LEOPOLD OBI
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The award by a US jury of $114 million (about Sh11.4 billion) this week to a man who said his use of weed killer Roundup caused his cancer, has sent shockwaves in Kenya, where the chemical is widely used.

The verdict in the Herdeman v. Mosanto case before the San Francisco Federal Court found that exposure to glyphosate, a key active ingredient in Roundup, caused Mr Edwin Hardema’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Following the ruling, lobby groups in the country are protesting the continued use of the chemical, and have challenged the government to recall and ban the herbicide.

The precedent set by the US court could swing open litigation flood gates in Kenya and elsewhere, as Mr Hardeman’s case is only the second of 11,200 lawsuits against Roundup set to go to on trial in the US.

Mr Eric Ogumo, the chairman of Society of Crop Agribusiness Advisers of Kenya, said the development must be taken seriously to ensure that local farmers do not suffer similar consequences.

“This is not the first time farmers are challenging the use of the herbicide. The government now needs to do more research on the safety of the chemical and also benchmark its findings with other countries to find out the truth,” said Mr Oguma, a food safety expert.

Mr Stephen Mutoro, Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) executive officer, asked farmers who have been using the product to stop immediately and go for medical check-ups.

Mr Mutoro said they are considering legal action against Roundup manufacturer’s Bayer-Monsanto, if similar cases are found in Kenya.

“Should the local users of Roundup be found affected by the chemical, we will not hesitate to go to court for compensation,” Mr Mutoro said.

The lobby groups also asked the government to crack down on other products that contain glyphosate.

Officially, there are no guidelines in Kenya to the sale and use of Roundup. Our efforts yesterday and in the past to reach the Pest Control Products Board were futile since there was no one in their office, and they did not respond to our text messages.

The board’s mandate is listed as regulating the importation, export, manufacture, distribution and use of products that control pests.

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But even as lobbies urged for the ban of glyphosate, our survey on Sunday found most dealers had the herbicide in stock, with farmers unaware of the landmark ruling in faraway California. Some were also oblivious of the danger they could be exposing themselves to by continued use of the herbicide.

In counties like Uasin Gishu, Narok and Trans-Nzoia where wheat, barley and maize are grown on huge plantations, spraying is the main method of weed control.

The herbicides, especially Roundup, is also preferred by farmers practising minimum tillage, which is becoming common across the country for conserving water. The herbicides contain glyphosate, which enables them to kill weeds.

Many youths in farming regions across the country have ventured into spraying weeds as source of income. Mr Joseph Korir, 29, sprays farm chemicals for a fee in Eldoret. He says he wears protective clothing when working.

But not all farmers are as careful They simply get a knapsack sprayer then embark on the job.

Mr Peter Musyoka, a farmer in Muthetheni in Makueni County, for instance, does not have any safety gear apart from an apron.

“I had them, but they wore out. I usually take milk after spraying as a precaution, though,” he says. But drinking milk after exposure to harmful chemicals is no remedy, experts warn.

While no research in Kenya has established the link between cancer and the use of Roundup, cases of the disease have shot up in recent years. The latest research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that cancer of the windpipe is the top killer in Kenya.

In March 2015, WHO’s international agency for research on cancer announced that glyphosate — a key ingredient in Roundup — is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

The court, which awarded $5.9 million (Sh590 bn) in compensatory and $75 million (Sh7.5 bn) in punitive damages to Mr Hardeman, ruled that Roundup was defectively designed, and that Monsanto had not warned of the herbicide’s cancer risk.

Meanwhile, Bayer, which bought Monsanto last year for $63 billion, (Sh6.3 trn) has denied the claims, arguing that studies show that Roundup is safe, and vowed to appeal the decision.



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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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