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You can’t manage what you can’t measure, but not in Tanzania

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By AIDAN EYAKUZE
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Experts say it took just four minutes from beginning to end.

First, some sensors failed. Then the pilots lost control of the plane, it stalled, went into freefall and smashed into the surface of the Atlantic Ocean at a force 35 times greater than that of normal gravity. None of the 228 people on board the May 31, 2009 Air France flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris survived.

The tragedy that unfolded that night was triggered by failed airspeed sensors. Without the air speed reading, the computer systems failed and the pilots, flying literally data-blind, were unable to regain control of the aircraft.

Statistics are society’s sensors. Independently collected, processed, disseminated and debated, they are vital to the health of a country. We supress, fabricate or ignore them at our peril. At the risk of stretching the Air France 447 example to breaking point, sensor failure can be fatal.

Amending Tanzania’s Statistics Act

According to the website of Tanzania’s parliament, MPs last week passed the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments (No.3) Bill 2018. It contains nine substantive amendments to the Statistics Act 2015.

Most are positive – for example the offence of publishing statistics that are “false” or “may result to the distortion of facts” has been removed. But one proposed change is truly alarming. The amendments introduce the following new text in Article 24A(2):
“A person shall not disseminate or otherwise communicate to the public any statistical information that is intended to invalidate, distort, or discredit official statistics.”

This article means that, if any official statistics happen to be incorrect (or even just disputable), then pointing out the problem and correcting it will be illegal. Any commentary querying or challenging official data would arguably be illegal under the amended Act, regardless of whether such commentary was correct or not.

Indeed, this clause effectively outlaws fact-checking, unless any fact-checking confirms that the facts being checked are correct. Further, publication of any statistical information that contradicts, or merely cast doubt on, official statistics, could be prohibited under this amendment.

The value of independent statistics

Independent statistics can save lives. The Ramani Huria project has mapped poor, flood-prone areas in Dar es Salaam for flood modelling and therefore better upkeep of the infrastructure, improved warning systems, and improved and more accurate response in event of a flood crisis.

Under the proposed amendments to the Statistics Act, these independently produced maps and the potentially lifesaving information they contain could become illegal.

Independent statistics – when credible and transparent – can help boost the economy. Small business retailers are important to Tanzania’s economy, and could also be an important source of revenue.

But, according to a 2017 report, “There are no official statistics on the number of small business retailers in Tanzania. However, secondary research data … indicates that the total addressable market (TAM) is quite large and unpenetrated: One interviewee made a rough approximation of between 350,000 and 500,000 small retailers in the country.”

These numbers would not exist were they not collected – and made public – by independent (non-state) entities.

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Independent statistics, or data collected using methods pioneered by non-state actors, can improve inclusiveness.

A recent water point mapping (WPM) exercise carried out jointly by the World Bank and the Tanzanian government and inspired largely by WPM methodology developed by WaterAid, helped to make a strong case that the resources mobilised during the first phase of the Water Sector Development Programme (2007-2014), which increased Tanzania’s spending on water by a factor of four, had not led to the anticipated improvements in access to clean water.

This motivated reflection by government and donors to ensure that future investments would have their desired impact. In addition, the government has recognised that WPM data can be a useful input to identify wards and villages with the greatest need and opportunity.

Governments benefit from understanding what citizens say they want and need. Unfortunately, those sentiments are almost never accurately captured in official data and statistics.

Afrobarometer surveys inform government policymakers about what citizens want. Of course, this does not always mean that the policymakers will decide to prioritise goals in exactly the same way, because of competing opportunities and constraints on policymaking and implementation. But without this feedback, governments may be surprised by negative reactions to their efforts.

While public sentiment is often expressed in other ways than public opinion surveys — such as through protests, social media, etc — the discipline of rigorous independent statistics allows researchers to be sure that such opinions actually represent the views of a larger population and to identify differences of opinion within key segments.

Independent actors can fill crucial gaps in how public service delivery is monitored. This example from Uganda is instructive: In June 2003, the results of the first directly observed study of teacher attendance in a national sample of 100 Ugandan schools was presented to the Ministry of Education.

The data revealed that more than one in four teachers who were supposed to be in class were away from school. The unanimous official review was that the methodology was invalid and the problem was nowhere near as large.

Three years later, in May of 2006, another independent national survey of schools yielded similar results to the 2003 survey. This time the review was mixed. A reluctant minority of officials acknowledged the problem.

By the beginning of 2008, the ministry started discussing teacher absenteeism as an important challenge in service delivery. In May 2018, the Office of Prime Minister announced an initiative to use biometric machines and monetary penalties in 20 pilot districts to address the problem of teacher absenteeism.

Avoiding disasters through statistics

There is little visible drama in the lives damaged by flooding, poor access to clean water, or even teacher absenteeism, when compared with the instant tragedy of the AF 447 disaster. However, the underlying principle is the same: All sorts of disasters can be averted when decisions about what to invest in are informed by as complete a set of data and statistics as can be mustered.

Official statistics alone are a small part of the full picture. Independent statistics make a huge difference. We need them to get a more accurate reading of our airspeed and to ensure there is sufficient lift under our collective wings. Amendments to Tanzania’s Statistics Act must promote independent statistics.

Aidan Eyakuze is executive director of Twaweza. This article was first published on Oxfamblogs.org

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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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