Who is Sicily Kariuki, for Kenyans who do not know you?
She is the Cabinet Secretary for Health; formerly the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs;
Tell us about your background
I was born in Embu, as the second last born of seven siblings to my parents — the late Mugo and my loving mum Eunice Wandiri — humble and God fearing, loving parents, who instilled the love and fear of God in me. To date, I still cherish the rare and intimate moments with my ageing mum.
What kind of a person are you?
God fearing, confident, goal oriented, determined, resilient, dare-devil … all wrapped in one.
I am married to a very supportive and understanding husband. Together, we have four children; all young adults; and two grandchildren.
What challenges do you go through during your work and how do you solve them?
Technical challenges characterise my day; and I am able to fix them with technical solutions. Issues to do with stereotypes are difficult to handle since they create perceptions which are stubborn to deal with. For instance, as a woman, it’s difficult to tell the world that you are as good as your male colleagues in the workplace, that you are not where you are because a man got you there.
What advice can you give to up-and-coming women who are interested in any top position?
With all the gender equality talk and just because they are girls, they shouldn’t expect to be given anything on a silver platter! They have to work for it and compete with men! They must prove their worth. They must work twice as hard to earn half the respect they deserve in the corporate world! Never mind, the domestic world cannot be replaced!
With your busy schedule, do you find time to be with your family?
It’s always a struggle — balancing between office duty and domestic chores. Whenever I am not travelling, on a Sunday, I always try to make my husband his favourite masala tea and pancakes, as I make my children their rare sandwich, whenever they are home! But it’s very rare.
How does your being Christian shape your decision-making?
Psalms 28-7 reminds me every day that my strength comes from God, who is my shield. So every morning, I commit my day to God and lay my steps upon Him. This does not only give me the will to keep going, but also the courage to push forward. This is what my parents taught me.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Impacting people, especially the voiceless and most vulnerable, besides challenging the status quo!
How was the journey to where you are?
Gruelling; but purposeful.
What is your ideal day like?
Early to rise, late to bed!
If you were not the CS Health, who would you be?
A counsellor or a psychologist. I get so many people thinking I can listen to them and help them fix one or two personal issues.
What did you study in school?
Many things. Arts in high school, business at graduate college, regulation, law and leadership at postgraduate level.
Loyalty and the urge to make a difference, and to impact one more soul.
Did you ever aspire to head a Health ministry, if not where do you think your strength is?
No. This came as a surprise when the President named his Cabinet on 26 Jan 2018 and appointed me. However, I am one adaptable person and I have since fitted in well.
Three women you admire most?
Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, Zipporah Kittony and Winnie Mandela.
A long swim is always my most precious moment! A quiet evening with my family is always a welcome time.
What is the one thing unique about you?
Being me — candid, brutally honest and naively loyal.
What legacy do you wish to leave at the Health Ministry?
Daring to lead a reform journey that would cause legislative, institutional and policy reforms that will define the future of health in the 21st century and positively impact the lives of needy Kenyans.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Leading the sector in defining Kenya’s UHC approach, including determination of the essential benefits package; rallying the sector to adopt a primary healthcare approach to health sector delivery, focusing on promotive and preventative as well as specialised cadres through adoption of collegiate modalities.
Also, deepening partnerships with the devolved structures and the private sector with higher value for money and, a better leadership and governance ecosystem.
Some Kenyans think that you are arrogant, why the perception?
Everyone around me, including family and friends as well as myself, are surprised by this description of Sicily Kariuki. However, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But perceptions should not be shaped by biased media. I am easy-going, but if you expect to find me in social places, then it will take you many years!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Only God knows. If life brings lemons five years later, I will make a lemonade!
What’s your favourite meal?
Mukimo. I am from Nyandarua, the land of potatoes and peas!
A lot will be determined by what my current assignment yields! So let’s see.
What mantra do you live by?
100 per cent is not good enough; do more!
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.