The year 2018 was a successful one for Kenya on the global arena going by the number of high rankling dignitaries who visited Nairobi.
Since July, former US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Alain Berset of Switzerland, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon, and Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh toured Kenya.
US First Lady Melania Trump, as well as several representatives of various countries, a number of business delegations, top UN diplomats and business leaders have toured Kenya.
In May, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali arrived in Nairobi on a tour that was expected to bolster the existing strong relations between Kenya and Ethiopia.
Prime Minister Ali and his host President Uhuru Kenyatta focused their discussions on critical bilateral, regional, and global matters.
On the bilateral level, they re-emphasised the great historical foundation on which the two nations have continued to build their bilateral relations and agreed that the vision of the forefathers points to a future of shared values, culture and tradition.
In that meeting, cross-border security challenges exacerbated by vulnerable communities were identified as obstacles to sustainable peace.
July had the most dignitaries visiting.
Mr Obama returned to Kogelo, his ancestral home in Kenya’s Siaya County, to open the Sauti Kuu Resource Centre, the multi-million-shilling youth centre built by his half-sister Auma Obama.
The visit to Kenya was Mr Obama’s first tour of Africa since he left office as the 44th US president.
In this particular visit, he separately met with President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The tour paled in comparison to his last visit in 2015 as there was no Air Force One or the Beast, the two things that symbolise the power of an American president, especially while travelling abroad.
This is not the first time Mr Obama was coming to Kenya as he had visited the country in 1988 and later on in 2006 as the Senator for Illinois.
The second visit was interpreted as a sign of rekindling relationships between the US and Kenya and a trust in the current government.
This was followed by a visit by Switzerland President Alain Berset which aimed to broaden bilateral relations between his country and Kenya.
Kenya is one of Switzerland’s five most important trading partners in Sub-Saharan Africa.
President Berset’s visit came after renewed relations between Kenya and Switzerland, with Bern opening its new Embassy building in Gigiri two years ago.
Close ties between Switzerland and Kenya go back to Kenya’s independence.
The iconic Kenya Utalii College set up in the 1970s is the best-known Kenya-Switzerland economic cooperation project.
By training the first generation of indigenous Kenyan hotel managers, it helped lay the foundation for Kenya’s tourism sector.
In the same month, Korea Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon was in the country for a two-day official visit.
With the visit, South Korea appears to join other Asian economic giants in strengthening business ties with the region’s economic powerhouse.
The Korean leader pledged to support President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda with a key focus on Korea opening its market to Kenya’s agricultural produce.
And also in July, the Djibouti president came visiting.
Together with his host, they signed a number of agreements, mainly centred on boosting trade, but also influenced by security concerns.
President Guelleh said: “We are in a troubled region where we are confronted by extremism and violence. That is why our militaries are in Somalia to help it regain stability because what happens in Somalia has an immediate impact on all of us.”
And during UK PM May’s visit in August, an agreement was signed to ensure that proceeds of corruption and crime hidden in Britain are returned in a continued bid by President Kenyatta to fight the vice.
PM May also announced that Britain will soon unveil a package for the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom), the peace keeping team that comprises of Kenyan soldiers maintaining peace in the country.
In October, Mrs Trump, in her first solo trip to Africa, visited Kenya to promote health and education.
She was hosted by her Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and they held talks on shared interests.
The talks focused on health, especially the welfare of mothers and children, and conservation.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.