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Yemen’s Huthis allow UN team to visit ‘time bomb’ tanker: source » Capital News

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Yemen’s port city of Hodeida is controlled by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels © AFP / ABDO HYDER

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jul 12 – Yemen’s Huthi rebels have given UN inspectors the green light to inspect a decaying oil tanker abandoned off the coast with 1.1 million barrels of crude on board which experts say could rupture at any time.

A breach of the vessel would have disastrous results for Red Sea marine life and tens of thousands of impoverished people who depend on fishing for their livelihood.

The 45-year-old FSO Safer is anchored off the port of Hodeida under the control of the Iran-backed Huthis, who have previously blocked efforts to send inspectors to assess its condition.

The UN Security Council will hold a special meeting on July 15 to discuss the crisis, after water entered the vessel’s engine room “which could have led to disaster”, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday.

Dujarric said prospects had been revived for an inspection team to conduct light repairs and determine the next steps, and a UN source said Sunday that the Huthis had agreed to the visit.

“They officially approved the visit of the UN assessment and repair team to the tanker,” the source told AFP on Sunday.

Effectively a floating storage platform, the Safer has had virtually no maintenance for five years since war broke out in the country where the Huthis have seized much of the north from the internationally recognised government.

The Yemen government has warned the Safer could explode and cause “the largest environmental disaster regionally and globally”.

Top Huthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Huthi said on Twitter last month that the rebels want guarantees the vessel will be repaired and that the value of the oil on board is used to pay salaries of their employees.

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The market value of the oil is now estimated at $40 million, half what it was before crude prices crashed, although experts say poor quality could push it even lower.

Like other economic and aid issues in Yemen, the plight of the tanker has become a bargaining chip, with the Huthis accused of using the threat of disaster to secure control of the value of the cargo.

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Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed on Thursday said the money for the oil should be spent on health and humanitarian projects.

– ‘Ticking time bomb’

Apart from corrosion to the ageing vessel, essential work on reducing explosive gases in the storage tanks has been neglected for years. Experts said the latest problem emerged in May with a leak in a cooling pipe.

“The pipe burst, sending water into the engine room and creating a really dangerous situation,” said Ian Ralby, CEO of IR Consilium, a global maritime consultancy which follows the vessel closely.

A team from Yemen’s Safer Exploration and Production Operations, a public oil company partly controlled by the Huthis, sent divers in to fix the leak, narrowly avoiding the ship sinking, Ralby said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned last week that if the tanker ruptures “it will devastate the Red Sea ecosystem” and disrupt key shipping lanes.

“The Huthis must grant access before this ticking time bomb explodes,” he said.

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Hodeida port is a lifeline for northern Yemen with 90 percent of all supplies coming through it. Any disruption would inflict further hardship on a country which is again on the brink of famine after long years of conflict.

If the vessel ruptures “you’re going to have two catastrophes”, said Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

“There’s going to be an environmental catastrophe that’s bigger than almost any other similar kind … and it’s going to be a humanitarian catastrophe because that oil will make the port of Hodeida unusable,” she told AFP.

Independent Yemen-based environmental group Holm Akhdar — Arabic for “Green Dream” — warned an oil spill could stretch out from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and into the Arabian Sea.

The region’s ecology would need over 30 years to recover from an oil spillage of that size, it said in a recent report, adding that about 115 of Yemen’s Red Sea islands would lose their biodiversity and natural habitats.

In a country where the majority of people already rely on aid to survive, an estimated 126,000 fishermen, including 68,000 in Hodeida, would lose their only source of income.

IR Consilium said any salvage operation after an oil spill would be greatly hampered by the coronavirus crisis.

“In the midst of a global pandemic and on the edge of a conflict zone, the chances of an early and adequate response are vanishingly small,” it said in a report.

Doug Weir, research and policy director at the UK-based Conflict and Environment Observatory, said that without an independent assessment “it is impossible to determine when an incident might occur, or its form and severity”.

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“However the risks are clear, and the longer the dispute continues, the greater they become, and the more complex and expensive any salvage operation will be.”

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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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