Joel Moseti stands out oddly as the only man in the babies’ nursing unit at Kuria West Sub-County Hospital in Kehancha, Migori County.
He is seated next to his wife with his three-week-old daughter on his chest.
When his daughter Dalvin Peninah was born on October 12, her arrival brought mixed feelings for the young couple. “She was very tiny … almost fragile and grossly underweight,” he says. He could barely look at her, let alone hold her in his arms for the first time.
At 1.4 kilos, this was the first time Mr Moseti, 20, had seen such a ‘tiny’ baby in his life. But if he expected things to get better, they only got worse.
“My baby’s weight dropped significantly to 600 grammes before she started gaining weight. The only consolation was that the doctors told us she would get better,” Mr Moseti says.
“But for this to happen, the mother and I had to learn the new technique that offers the baby natural, incubator-like benefits. I had to step in and help my wife through this skin-to-skin intervention,” he proudly explains.
Known as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), it is promoted for low birth-weight preterm babies and helps in stabilising body temperature which in turn leads to quick improvement and development of vital body organs such as the heart and lungs.
It borrows from the Australian pouched mammal, the Kangaroo, which naturally gives birth to underdeveloped babies but which are then carried in its pouch under the belly, being nourished with milk as it thrives from the mother’s warmth.
The human mother care works similarly, by ensuring the pre-term babies are shielded from the outside cold by keeping it close to its father or mother’s skin — the reason it’s called skin-to-skin protection.
In the first two weeks, baby Dalvin added 400g.
Naomi Kerambo, a young mother, is also familiar with cases of pre-term birth. In 2014, her baby girl came too soon; she was only seven months pregnant.
“Back then I had to cover the baby in warm clothing most of the time. She weighed 1.6kg but she is now a bubbly four-year-old. Coincidently, this year I went through a second pre-term birth with my son. I had to deliver him at 28 weeks of pregnancy,” Ms Kerambo says.
But she can attest to the effectiveness of the kangaroo technique. “I have witnessed fast growth in my son. At birth, he weighed 1.7kg but now he weighs 2.9kg,” says the 21-year-old.
In Kenya, more than 180,000 babies are born premature every year and nearly 15,000 die.
Kenya is among the 15 countries with the highest number of preterm babies.
Globally about 15 million babies are born too early.
Preterm birth, defined by the World Health Organisation as all births before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is the leading causes of death among children under five in Kenya and the world.
Pre-term babies are vulnerable and thousands can be saved if they receive extra care. Managing severely premature babies involves intensive care, requiring specialist skills and equipment as such incubators and respirators.
The Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) is implementing a Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi) Research in collaboration with University of California, San Francisco, and the Migori County government.
Dr Phelgona Otieno, the principal investigator in PTBi Kenya, explains: “Our main aim here and elsewhere is to decrease the burden of pre-term births, improve survival and quality of life for pre-term born babies.”
According to the 2014 Kenya Preterm Demographic and Health survey, preterm birth complications are the leading cause of deaths among children under five years of age, responsible for nearly one million deaths in 2013.
Dr Leah Kirumbi, also a researcher at Kemri, says lack of statistics on pre-term births was a major concern.
“What we had were estimates. The neonatal mortality rate was at 22 or 23 per 1,000 live births. The other issue was the management of pre-term babies. One of the key things is how to manage the environment of pre-term babies,” Dr Kirumbi says.
Migori County is among five counties in Kenya with the highest number of pre-term births.
Scientists are trying to find out why this is the case. “We are investigating the real cause of these high rates of pre-term births in Migori. We, however, know that probably high numbers of adolescent pregnancies, mothers with multiple pregnancies, lack of access to health facilities in time of labour, maternal related conditions and sickness and a myriad of lifestyle issues may be factors to consider,” Dr Otieno says.
Ms Margaret Okumu developed preclampsia (pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys) which lead to premature delivery at the Migori-based St Joseph Mission Hospital, Ombo.
“My baby had to be removed. It was a tough decision because my life was at stake,” said the 23-year-old mother.
Migori County Director of Health Dr. Elizabeth Mgumb says Migori County Referral Hospital recorded 250 (13 per cent) preterm births out of the 1,200 births between January and June 2018.
“For the preterm births, the interventions have to start during conception, pregnancy, during labour and even after delivery,” Dr Mgumb says.
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.