Multiple sclerosis sufferer Mary Wilson fears the coronavirus pandemic could have robbed her of her dream to play badminton at the Paralympics.
Wilson, who hoped to qualify for Tokyo 2020, says if she does make it to Japan next year it will “be the biggest thing ever” but she recognises time may not be on her side.
The 56-year-old Scot has faced – and overcome – some astonishing challenges since being diagnosed with MS, a chronic neurological condition, in 2004.
She survived an attack during a military tour of duty in Afghanistan, an ugly incident involving a Ugandan policeman, and has climbed every one of the Munros, the 282 mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet (914 metres) high.
But Wilson’s Paralympic hopes are on hold after Olympics and Paralympics organisers bowed to the inevitable at the end of March, delaying both events until next year and meaning badminton could not make its Paralympic debut in 2020.
Wilson agreed with the decision but admits it is a huge blow for her personally as she has secondary progressive MS.
“It is definitely going to affect my chances with an extra year,” Wilson told AFP by phone from the Edinburgh home she shares with partner Judi and their German Shepherd dog Max.
“A year is a long time trying to train hard. I feel my body is going backwards. It (the MS) is affecting it.”
“To tell you the truth I think it should have been called off sooner,” she said. “It dragged on a bit (the official announcement was made on March 24). People in other countries were dying.”
Wilson was in Spain for a competition when that country went into lockdown due to Covid-19.
“I went out walking and a police car went past and stopped,” she said.
“The policeman threatened to handcuff me and take me to the station as I shouldn’t have been out walking although I was unaware that was the case.
“They followed me back to the hotel to make sure I was going there.”
Wilson managed to find a seat on a flight back to Scotland and is now following a radically adapted training regime at home.
“I set up a programme each day, strength and conditioning from press-ups to sit-ups, lunges, calf raises,” said the athlete, who has to take extra care during the coronavirus lockdown due to her condition.
“The kitchen is my gym. I do press-ups off the kitchen surface but I wear kitchen gloves as the surfaces are really sharp.”
Wilson said para-badminton was an expensive sport – competitors need adapted equipment and transport – and many of her rivals struggle to fund themselves.
She estimates she has spent £50,000 ($62,000) since she began competing internationally in 2017.
Aside from some funding from the charity Path To Success, she has had to dip into her Army pension and a legacy left to her by her late father.
She is fortunate to be even contemplating appearing at Tokyo after an Afghan truck driver tried to run her over at Camp Bastion, the former British Army airbase in Helmand Province, in 2008.
The psychiatric nurse, who served with Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, had to leave her tent one evening.
“There were no lights in case we got mortared,” she said.
“I heard this vehicle behind me. He had a dimmed light on and he was driving faster and faster and tried to run me over. I managed to dive off the road.”
Wilson woke up after an operation to find a neighbouring bed was occupied by a wounded Taliban fighter.
“We stared at each other both in shock,” she said. “I said to myself ‘I must not show my emotions’.”
The former staff sergeant said her army training served her well when in 2018, on her way to Kampala airport after a tournament, she was forced off the hotel bus at gunpoint by a Ugandan policeman.
He had a taxi driver take them to a secluded spot and demanded $1,000 or else a trip to a police station.
“My army training kicked in there,” she said. “I was very calm, I did not scream or shout.
“I came to an agreement with him, gave him some money and managed, unbeknownst to him, to take a photo of him.
“When I returned home I notified the authorities and he was arrested and jailed. At least he got his comeuppance.”
Honour our nurses … they pay the ultimate price for us to live
On June 18, Moses Gitonga Ringera, the clinical nurse who succumbed to Covid-19 recently, reported to work at the University of Nairobi Clinic as usual.
But he started complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath hours later.
“When he was examined, his blood sugar was very high despite him not having a history of diabetes,” said his wife, Lucyline Gitonga, during an interview with the Nation.
Because of the Covid-19 symptoms, he was rushed to the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) and was put in isolation. At the unit, his condition was confirmed.
Gitonga was the second case of a Covid-19 death of a healthcare professional in the country. He would have celebrated his 50th birthday on August 21, his wife told the Nation.
On admission, the 49-year-old nurse never woke up; he died at the intensive care unit, having fought the virus for a week.
“I was called from the hospital and informed that he had died on June 24 at 6.30am,” she said.
The medical professional was buried at his home in Kunene, Tigania West, in Meru County on June 30.
Mrs Gitonga, a nurse working in Meru, said the last time she saw him was in March, just before curfew.
“He had come home and because of the restrictions, he could not come again. When he got ill, we just spoke over the phone to inform me of his condition,” she said.
“We are still mourning. We are still seeing him. We feel as if he is still with us but we are beginning to realise that we are alone. It is deeply painful.”
The nurse said her husband contracted the virus in the line of duty as he sacrificed his life for Kenyans.
“Healthcare workers should be protected. They should be given personal protective equipment and their families should be compensated in case of death so that their children can continue with their lives,” she said.
“There should be an enabling environment… healthcare workers should have insurance.”
Before Gitonga, Clifford Manyara Mburia, a 58-year-old anaesthetist who was working at Kitengela Medical Centre, succumbed to the virus.
He passed on at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) on June 15 after contracting the virus in the line of duty and was buried on June 22 in Kithiru, Weru in Tharaka Nithi County.
Mburia had two children.
“It was discovered posthumously that he had contracted the virus,” said Alfred Obengo, President of the National Nurses Association of Kenya.
Speaking to the Nation, his daughter Shirleen Gakii, 25, said, “We could not imagine it. I have never seen him admitted to a hospital, his death was untimely.”
He developed a cough and died only a day after being admitted at KNH, she said.
“I was called by his friend who informed me of his demise. I later learnt that he passed on because he had Covid-19,” Gakii said.
The first-year student at Chuka University said life has been hard without both of their parents.
She and her brother, a second-year KCA University student, are afraid they may not be able to complete their studies for lack of finances.
The latest health worker to pay the ultimate price was Dr Doreen Adisa Lugaliki, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, who died on Friday at Aga Khan Hospital.
Dr Lugaliki was buried on Monday in Bungoma County.
Currently, some 361 healthcare workers have tested positive for the disease, which has already killed 197 Kenyans.
World hunger worsening as Covid-19 weighs and obesity rises: UN
Nearly one in nine people in the world are going hungry, with the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating already worsening trends this year, according to a United Nations report published Monday.
Economic slowdowns and climate-related shocks are pushing more people into hunger, while nutritious foods remain too expensive for many, contributing not only to undernourishment, but to growing rates of obesity in adults and children.
“After decades of long decline, the number of people suffering from hunger has been slowly increasing since 2014,” said the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World annual report.
Not only did people need enough food, but nutritious food, the study said, citing costly “health and environmental consequences” of sub-par diets.
Nearly 690 million people, or 8.9 per cent of people around the globe, are hungry, the UN found.
That number rose by 10 million people in just one year to 2019, and by 60 million in the past five years, found the study, which said eradicating hunger by 2030 – a goal set five years ago – will be impossible if trends continue.
By 2030, over 890 million people could be affected by hunger, or 9.8 per cent of the world’s population, it estimated.
Five United Nations agencies co-authored the report: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Last year, the report estimated that over 820 million people were going hungry, but estimates were recalculated following revised data from China for prior years.
When measuring both moderate and severe food insecurity in 2019, the number balloons from 690 million to 2 billion people without “regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food”.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit hard in nations with widespread poverty, could cause another 83 to 132 million people to become undernourished this year, the report said.
Global trends had already been worsening before coronavirus, it said.
About a quarter of Africa’s population could go hungry by 2030 from 19.1 per cent today, already twice the world average.
In Asia, the number of hungry people fell by 8 million people since 2015, although the continent remains home to more than half the world’s undernourished people.
Trends in Latin America and the Caribbean are worsening, with 9 million more hungry people last year than in 2015.
“A key reason why millions of people around the world suffer from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition is because they cannot afford the cost of healthy diets,” found the report.
In all regions, adult obesity is on the rise, with healthy diets of fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods unaffordable to some 3 billion people.
Over 57 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia cannot afford a healthy diet.
Low-income countries rely on starchy staples like cereals and tubers that can cost 60 percent less than healthy diets, but lack necessary proteins and key vitamins and minerals to reduce infections and ward off disease.
The report found 21.3 per cent of children under five, or 144 million, experienced stunted growth due to malnutrition, most of them in Africa or Asia.
Another 6.9 per cent were “wasted” with nutritional imbalances, while 5.6 per cent were overweight.
Of the overweight children, 45 per cent come from Asia, and 24 per cent from Africa, underscoring how malnutrition takes the form of both undernutrition and obesity.
Current patterns in food consumption are estimated to result in health costs of over $1.3 trillion per year by 2030.
But healthier diets could lower those costs by up to 97 per cent, the report estimated, citing a vegetarian diet with associated health costs of less than $100 million.
Costs are also associated with greenhouse gas emissions caused by today’s food production system which could also be reduced by alternative diets.
While acknowledging high prices for healthy food are due to a variety of factors from insufficient diversification and inadequate food storage to domestic subsidies that favor staples, the report called an “urgent rebalancing of agricultural policies and incentives.”
Lobbying intensifies as MCAs set to table Ngilu impeachment motion
The motion for Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu’s impeachment will be tabled Wednesday following the High Court’s decision against stopping the process.
Justice Weldon Korir’s ruling last week, okaying the motion by majority leader Peter Kilonzo, kicked off a series of meetings, with both sides lobbying for support to either pass or defeat the motion.
Ms Ngilu is facing a spirited effort for her removal from office that was engineered by MCAs in the Wiper party, whose leader is politician Kalonzo Musyoka.
In the 54-member county assembly, Wiper enjoys the majority of 30 elected and nominated MCAs but two members – Kasee Musya (Kisasi) and James Musyoka (Kiomo Kyethani) broke ranks with their party and announced they’ll oppose the motion.
With 28 members remaining, the mover must win the support of eight MCAs from other parties to gather the requisite two thirds majority of 36 votes to see the motion through.
Ms Ngilu’s party, Narc, has 12 members but enjoys the support of MCAs from smaller political parties and independent lawmakers.
Members of the governor’s camp say they have the backing of about 25 MCAs and are sure the motion will fail but Mr Kilonzo said his camp has more than 36 supporters.
Lobbying for numbers has intensified with a caucus of 10 women MCAs throwing their weight behind Governor Ngilu.
The ward reps, led by Anastasia Mwathi of Mutito/Kaliku ward, said the motion is ill-motivated and aimed at distracting Ms Ngilu from the goals in her manifesto.
Ms Mwathi noted that MCAs must be allowed to represent the interests of the people who elected them, not political parties.
“We can’t allow bullying by big parties against a leader who was popularly elected by more than 170,000 votes” she told the Nation on Monday.
She said their proponents will face a huge embarrassment as the impeachment bid will collapse for lack of numbers.
The ten female MCAs include six from Ms Ngilu’s party, three from small political parties and an independent.
The assembly has 18 women MCAs out of the 54 elected and nominated members.
US-based law scholar Makau Mutua waded into the controversy at the weekend, criticising the assembly for seeking to oust the governor.
In a tweet, Prof Mutua urged MCAs to put Kitui people before “politics of personal destruction”.
“Think before you commit irreversible errors. Respect women leadership,” the law don said.
Meanwhile, Speaker George Ndotto has summoned Ms Ngilu to appear before the assembly Wednesday with strict instructions to bring only two legal counsels.
In a letter dated July 9, Mr Ndotto said if the governor chooses to appear in person, only two lawyers will be allowed at the county assembly grounds.
The letter rekindles memories of last week’s scuffle that saw Governor Ngilu’s lawyers assaulted and thrown out of the assembly by orderlies.
Lawyers Martin Oloo, Morris Kimuli and Stanley Kiima had gone to respond to summons issued by the Speaker.
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