Displaced people at their makeshift camp at Nyarkulian Primary School in West Pokot. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]
It is a chilly afternoon at a camp set up following the catastrophic landslides that rocked West Pokot two weeks ago.
Chebokamoi Loiwena is in deep thought, still reeling in grief from the loss of her three children. She has no place to bury them because her home and farm were swept away by the deadly deluge that killed more than 40 people.
She says she will never return to Parua village, where she narrowly survived the mudslides that killed her children.
At Nyarkulian Primary School where a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) tent has been her home since the tragedy happened, Ms Loiwena is staring at an uncertain future.
SEE ALSO :Man goes berserk, chops off wife’s handShe is desperate, her tribulations confounded by lack of information on where she will relocate to after the land she has lived on for more than 25 years was ravaged by the mudslides.
First, she says there is nowhere to bury her three sons – twins who were in Class Seven and their younger brother.
In Sondany Location alone, authorities said 12 people died and 11 others were seriously injured.
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West Pokot County reported that 52 people died, but the State maintains that 43 people perished.
Last Thursday, at least 150 locals displaced by the mud and landslides and who have braved the extremely cold weather in the camp vowed never to go back to the area hit by the disaster. They called for relocation of the camp to an area with habitable weather conditions, saying they want to avoid other incidents in future.
SEE ALSO :Heavy downpour delays KCPE exams in West PokotFor Loiwena and other women with young children, the conditions at the camp are unbearable.
“I don’t know how the bodies of my three sons will reach home because all roads leading to the home are impassable after the mudslides, and even when their bodies reach home, there is no land to bury them. The soils were washed away,” a seemingly frustrated Loiwena says.
She says the house she lived in before the calamity struck was located in a warmer area in the lowlands, making it difficult for her to adapt to the weather at the camp.
“The State has given us some food, a blanket and a mattress but the environment is too chilly for me. I am urging the government to relocate the camp to a warmer area. The cold here is unbearable,” says Loiwena.
According to West Pokot director of meteorological services Wilson Lonyangole, temperatures in Nyarkulian where the evacuation camp is located fall to as low as four degrees celsius. The camp is about 3,000 metres above sea level.
SEE ALSO :5 held over exam cheating at Kapterema Primary SchoolAt least ten women were crowding in the same tent Loiwena was in.
Rose Jeruto, tightly-holding her nine-month-old baby to her chest, says the child has been crying incessantly for the last one week due to what she suspects is the cold temperatures.
She says she will not move back to her home for fear of being swept away during another rainy season.
Ms Jeruto also says she has nowhere to move to and when schools reopen next month she will still be at the camp. She is oblivious of the government’s plan to return her to the same house that she has vowed never to return to before Christmas.
“We had some food in our stores but they were destroyed by the mudslides. I plead with the government to resettle us elsewhere because we wish to start our lives again. There is no going back to the landslide-prone area again,” Jeruto, who was lucky not to lose any member of her family on the fateful night two weeks ago, says.
SEE ALSO :Tullow meets West Pokot residents over Turkwel waterCaroline Petro, another survivor, says returning to her house rekindles memories of the night tragedy occasioned by Mother Nature.
Ms Petro has a seven-month-old child who she says has been coughing following a fever she caught at the camp.
“There are medicines in the camp for the children, but cases of fever have been on the rise and the rains are yet to subside,” she says.
Petro adds: “We have no land to return to and we urge the State to hasten the resettlement process.”
Michael Chepkau, a nurse at the nearby Sondany dispensary, says the medicines delivered by the county government of West Pokot and humanitarian agencies are almost running out.
Mr Chepkau says several cases of pneumonia, typhoid and malaria have been reported in the last 10 days.
“We are calling for more specialists to help us treat emergency cases. We also need additional drugs,” the health worker says.
Chairman of the camp Joseph Ng’esarich says the 150 people at Nyarkulian Primary School were sleeping in the camp while hundreds of other locals were being housed by relatives in safer areas.
Mr Ng’esarich says there is no electricity in the school where the camp is located, making it difficult to manage it at night.
“There is need for more blankets and mattresses because the temperatures are very low,” he says.
Sondany Location Chief Joel Plaal says at least 200 cows and 300 merino sheep were buried by the landslide.
Mr Plaal says mudslides are still happening in the areas where locals were displaced.
“We are still experiencing mudslides and landslides in the area but we have not lost anyone because residents heeded calls to move out,” he says.
West Pokot County Commissioner Apollo Okello, however, said all three camps of Nyarkulian, Paroo and Parua primary schools will be closed before Christmas.
The county commissioner said displaced residents will be given building materials and returned to their homes ahead of schools reopening in January.
Mr Okello says a requiem mass for the 43 victims will be conducted in Kapenguria tomorrow. The government will offer Sh50,000 to cater for the burial of each of the dead residents.
“Starting Saturday next week, all displaced families will be given building materials and devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa will oversee the exercise,” he says.
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West Pokot CountyUNCHRlandslides
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.
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.
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.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
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.