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World War I: 52 months of hell

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World War I’s deadliest and most decisive battles were fought in Europe, on the Western Front slashing through the muddy fields of northern France and Belgium.

The front line stretched more than 700 kilometres, from the North Sea to the Vosges mountains near Switzerland.

But the Great War also raged on Russian, Balkan and Italian fronts, and spread rapidly to the Middle East, colonial Africa and Asia, where Japan sided with the Allies in seizing German islands in 1914.

The United States intervened late, but decisively, in 1917, drawing in several Latin American nations. Afterwards the Middle East was entirely redrawn as the Ottoman empire collapsed.

Just weeks after war was declared, German troops marched into Belgium on August 17, 1914, crushing Belgian defences and driving a flood of refugees before them as they advanced on Paris.

As France’s government fled southwest to Bordeaux, the French were driven back and suffered heavy losses, with 27,000 soldiers killed on the single day of August 22, the deadliest in the history of the French army.

General Joseph Joffre regrouped his retreating armies to fight the First Battle of the Marne on September 5-12, which succeeded in halting the German advance.

But the extent of losses this early in the conflict, more than half a million already, ruled out any chance of compromise.

Troops burrowed down into their trenches to shield themselves from a hail of artillery fire.

From that point, the conflict became a three-year war of attrition that produced little tangible result despite repeated, bloody attempts by both sides to break the stalemate.

Fighting played out quite differently on the less populated Eastern Front where sprawling expanses made trench warfare impossible.

Immediately at the outbreak of war, the Ottoman empire, allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary, closed the Bosphorus Strait to isolate Russia, which was fighting alongside Britain and France.

Russia launched a major offensive into East Prussia on August 15 but its campaign ended the following month with two heavy defeats at Tannenberg and the Mazurian Lakes.

Russia, where the state was on the verge of collapse, began a shambolic eastward retreat which continued until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the humiliating treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, which stripped Russia of its western territories and a third of its population.

On the Western Front, 1915 saw a string of bloody but indecisive offensives, marked by the large-scale use of modern weapons, including machine guns and heavy artillery. German forces made the first ever use of poison gas near Ypres, in Belgium.

In the spring, the Allies — led on the British side by a young Winston Churchill — launched a naval and ground campaign in the Dardanelles to prise open the Bosphorus Strait.

The battle, which ended in bitter defeat for the Allies, left an enduring mark in Australia and New Zealand whose young soldiers stood out for their courage.

Russia enjoyed more success against Ottoman forces, repelling them in the Caucasus and Armenia. But hundreds of thousands of Armenians were to die in mass killings between 1915 and 1917, accused of siding with the Russians in the fighting.

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British and German naval forces meanwhile faced off in the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. To counter a maritime blockade, Germany in 1915 launched a ruthless campaign of submarine warfare which came to a head in 1917.

As a strategic move this proved decisive, but not in Germany’s favour: it would prompt the Americans, outraged by the torpedoing of neutral ships or ones carrying American citizens, to enter the war in 1917.

The year 1916 went down in history as that of Verdun, the defining battle of the war for the French, and the Somme, which holds the same place in British memory.

The Germans launched the initial offensive at Verdun in February but French forces managed to contain their advance, at a huge human cost with nearly 800,000 dead and wounded.

In July, to take the strain off Verdun, British forces launched the biggest battle of the war, near the Somme river, which left 1.2 million men dead, wounded or missing, for minimal territorial gains.

In the Middle East, British forces invaded Turkish territory from the south in 1914 and went on to encourage the Arab population to rise up against their Ottoman rulers.

In 1916, Britain and France struck the Sykes-Picot accord under which they began carving out the shape of the future Middle East.

In 1917, the British launched a huge offensive in Flanders in Belgium in July. The French did the same in April at the Chemin des Dames, a crushing failure that lead to mutinies in the French army.

In October, Italian forces suffered a disastrous defeat at Caporetto, leaving 300,000 prisoners in the hands of German and Austrian forces.

In December, meanwhile, British general Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem, after the Balfour Declaration in which Britain backed a national homeland for the Jewish people despite promises of self-determination made to the Arab population.

Freed to focus on the Western Front following the Brest-Litovsk treaty that ended Russia’s involvement, German forces launched an all-out attempt to break through Allied lines before the arrival of American troops, succeeding in the spring of 1918.

They were once more within reach of the French capital, shelling Paris, when they were stopped by Allied forces placed in April under the unified command of French General Ferdinand Foch.

The Germans, who had seemed poised for victory, collapsed over the summer as the Allies reclaimed northern France with a series of counter-offensives culminating in the Second Battle of the Marne in July.

At the same time the Austro-Hungarian empire, Bulgaria and the Ottoman empire suffered a string of crushing defeats that were to force them into surrender.

On November 9 German Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated, two days before an armistice was signed that sealed the Allies’ victory.

Delirious crowds welcomed news of the armistice in France and Britain, crippled by four years of all-consuming warfare.

But it took years more, with a string of peace treaties to end its various sub-conflicts, for the Great War to come to a final end.



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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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