POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF COVID-19 ON MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTHCARE

By Vivian Magero

Covid-19 is making policy makers rethink national priorities and increase investment in the health systems. We have seen reports of counties spending more on their development budget, purchasing beds and Personal Protective Equipment, and both national and county governments hiring additional health workers.

Such investments in health facilities in the long-term will benefit the county health facilities, including Mother and Child Health services once the corona pandemic is over.

Despite the potentially positive impacts in responding to the current crisis however, there are fears that the focus on managing the covid-19 situation in the country may affect further the delivery of maternal and child health services.

HEALTH AND NUTRITION

Health and nutrition service delivery in the Maternal Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) programme is currently under threat as a lot of focus is shifting toward prevention and treatment of Covid-19.

Malnutrition has for a long time been a public health concern due to the high mortality and morbidity rates among children under five.

However, the prevention and treatment of malnutrition seems to be receiving less attention as the emphasis is now more on preparedness to cope with the expected rise in corona cases.

Ensuring good nutritional status of the community at large with special emphasis on the vulnerable members of society helps achieve healthy lifestyle and averts mortality and morbidity rates among women and children.

Services like immunisation, the safe delivery of babies, nutrition and antropometric measurements may be affected further in a number of ways.

FAMILY PLANNING

A concern for many Kenyans is the lack of access to reproductive healthcare, including access to family planning services.

Two indicators – maternal deaths and an unmet need for family planning – highlight some of the reasons for this concern.

Although Kenya has made great strides in reducing maternal deaths it is still the case that the country records the unacceptably high figure of 6,300 women dying every year during pregnancy and childbirth. A major contributing factor to maternal deaths is unplanned pregnancy exacerbated by the lack of family planning services.

There are now challenges in conducting anthropometric assessments by nutritionists and health care workers due to fear of contracting covid-19.

Likewise there may be a reduction in seeking MCHN services and postnatal care visits by mothers because of fear of exposing their children to the virus. This may in turn lead to missing out on malnutrition cases and result into late interventions regarding malnourished children.

MOTHERS MISSING

There is also a danger of mothers missing appointments and a resultant defaulting of malnutrition cases that were being monitored.

The loss of income sources among women as a result of lockdown and curfew which may also result in poor food choices and nutrition of pregnant women.

Further, the failure to attend antenatal and postnatal care visits could also be exacerbated because of the fear of being caught by police and the threat of being taken to a quarantine facility as punishment of flaunting curfew laws.

There could also be difficulties in accessing reproductive and maternal healthcare services as health facilities slowly become overwhelmed with the increase in the number of Covid cases.

In addition, we might see cases of diversion and reorganization of county financial and personnel resources already budgeted for and prioritized to support maternal child health, nutrition services and reproductive health services to manage the corona pandemic should the numbers surge. Thus a strain on the county health finances will be felt which may further affect the delivery of maternal and child health services and reproductive health services, and lead to increased maternal mortality rates across the country.

As the covid-19 pandemic forces governments and policy makers to rethink their health systems and related services such as family planning, given the potential impact in the short and long term, maternal child health and nutrition services must not be compromised and should continue to be a priority.

More research and advocacy is needed into the impact of Covid-19 on maternal and child health across the country and lessons must be learned as to how we can revamp the healthcare system, improving it for the better so that the lives of children and mothers are not lost.

Vivian Magero is a trained nutritionist and public policy and budgeting expert.

Posted in Latest news

JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS AND THE KENYA KROLL REPORT

By Martin Minns

Yesterday a British court ruled that Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the United States to face charges of

Julian Assange

computer hacking and for publishing classified secret documents.

Some Kenyan commentators have all but claimed Julian Assange as one of their own on the basis that Kenya is where the Wikileaks story began and its founder propelled to international notoriety, where journalism and ‘journalistic ethics’ were supposedly ‘redefined in a digital age’.

The true story of Assange’s Kenya connection is far more problematic in terms of its outcome for journalistic standards and ethics.

WIKILEAKS REGISTERED IN NAIROBI

In October 2006 Wikileaks.org was registered in Nairobi under the name ‘John Shipton’, the name of Julian Assange’s father, the father he never met.

Wikileaks’ registered address in Kenya was given as ‘Nairobi, c/o WLK PO Box 8098-00200’, the same address as that for the Mars Group, ‘a leadership, governance, accountability and media watchdog’.

Mars Group Kenya was opened by Mwalimu Mati with his wife Jayne, in December 2006, partly funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.

THE KROLL REPORT

It was the part publication in August 2007 of a report by the international ‘risk consulting company’ Kroll that brought Wikileaks and its founder to fame.

In December 2003 Kroll had delivered a report into alleged high-level corruption in Kenya, commissioned by the Kenyan Government that had promised a break with past corruption,

A further ‘Consolidated Report’ was delivered to the Kenyan government in April 2004 but was not published at the time, although some details of the report appeared in the UK newspaper, the Observer, in March 2005, alleging that Ksh78 billion ($1 billion) in assets were held in London for leaders of President Moi’s regime.

For three-and-a-half years the delivery and content of the Kroll Report remained a secret. Only a handful of people knew of its existence, those who sat on the committee, and it seems, the US embassy and UK High Commission in Nairobi.

What was said to be Kroll’s ‘Consolidated Report’ was published in part via an anonymous ‘Wikileak’ on the Internet on 30 August, 2007, and the basis of the allegations in The Nation and the UK newspaper The Guardian, on 31 August 2007.

FRAUD ALLEGATIONS

The Kroll report made specific and serious allegations of fraud against several individuals including former President Moi, his sons Gideon and Philip, and Nicholas Biwott, by then a former minister in the Government of Kenya but still a Member of Parliament.

None were interviewed, or given a chance to challenge the allegations made in the report.

Julian Assange referred to the Kroll Report as the “holy grail of Kenyan journalism” and later said that, “I went there [Kenya] in 2007 and got hold of it”.

In fact the Kroll Report was leaked to Mwalimu Mati at the Mars Group who said that “Someone dumped it on our laps”. Mars Group, in effect, published it via Wikileaks under the headline, ‘The missing Kenyan billions’.

POLITICAL TIMING

The timing of the Kenya Kroll Report’s ‘publication’ was interesting,  100 days before Kenya’s presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007 and just three days after former President Moi and Biwott announced they were backing President Mwai Kibaki.

Kibaki’s main opponent in the election was Raila Odinga, who had sat on the ‘Cabinet Committee against Corruption’ that appointed Kroll.

Was it coincidence that the Kroll Report was leaked at a critical point in the run up to Kenya’s elections?

On Friday 31 August, 2007, a Wikileaks ‘spin doctor’, in reality Julian Assange, when asked why the report’s publication had been rushed, replied “Political timing”.

Assange later boasted that the leaking of the Kroll Report had “swung the election” by “shifting the vote 10 per cent” and thereby “changed the world”: maybe it did but ethical journalism it wasn’t.

KROLL REPORT – PAGES MISSING

It is clear that several pages from Kroll’s 2004 ‘Consolidated Report’ were removed before it was leaked and that the ‘Report’ as published is not complete. The missing pages have never been made public.

The allegations against several other individuals named in the Kroll Report had also been removed. The index refers to ‘targets’ 1, 2, 3, and 7, but the sections relating to targets 4, 5, and 6 were not published, which raises the question: who were Kroll’s targets 4, 5, and 6 and why were the allegations against them not published? Was that down to politics and “political timing” too?

KROLL REPORT – MULTIPLE ERRORS

The Report as leaked is also not a professionally competent piece of work, containing multiple errors and displaying a failure to undertake even basic due diligence.

Sources for the Kroll Report were not revealed, either given codenames – ‘Laundryman’, ‘Msamaha’ or ‘’Source A’ – or referred to as an ‘open source’ (i.e. the newspapers) and in many instances no source at all was cited.

NICHOLAS BIWOTT

The multiple failings of the Kroll Report displayed in its allegations against Nicholas Biwott provide telling examples and can be cited objectively because they cannot benefit him posthumously (Biwott died in July 2017).

The Kroll Report’s authors stated that Biwott, when ‘Minister of Communications’, had awarded a contract to ‘Team Simoco’ of which he was a shareholder. Biwott was never Minister of Communications and had no links with or a shareholding in Team Simoco.

Biwott, Kroll alleged, owned 40 per cent shares in Safaricom and likewise 40 per cent of Bank Belgolaise. A simple search of publicly available information would have proved that he did not.

Kroll also trotted out the hardy perennial that Biwott owned commercial property in Israel and Australia, and in particular a 10,000 hectare ranch in Australia (fake news that has often been spread in the Kenya press, Forbes magazine, embassy reports and on multiple websites).

Nicholas Biwott however had no commercial interest in either country. The assertion that he did originated from the unsupported hearsay testimony of one James Onyango K’Oyoo, now the Member of Parliament for Muhoroni. Why K’Oyoo made these unfounded allegations only he can say.

Kroll stated that a Horatius da Gama Rose was one of Biwott’s lawyers who ‘had been involved in questionable links’ and been given a ‘questionable contract’ by Kenya’s Treasury – but Kroll had got the wrong lawyer. Biwott’s lawyer was a Mirabeau da Gama Rose: same surname, different law firm, no question of wrong-doing.

TARA O’CONNOR AND DUDU ‘MARA MOON’ DOUGLAS HAMILTON

The Kenya Kroll Report was actually written by two young women, Tara O’Connor (aged 28) and a Dudu ‘Mara Moon’ Douglas-Hamilton (aged 24) and was in fact largely based on just two press reports carried in the East African Standard in April and May 2002.

When the Kroll Report was published the Kenyan government publicly stated that it could not act on it because it contained only rumour and gossip, and was incomplete and inaccurate. Government spokesman (now Governor of Machakos) Alfred Matua said, “We did not find that report was credible. It was based on a lot of hearsay”.

Kroll meanwhile immediately closed its East Africa office and refused to comment.

I want to stress, however, that Julian Assange remains innocent: he has not had a chance to challenge his accusers; allegations have been made against him but the facts have yet to be deduced; he has not been found guilty in a properly functioning court of law; and he remains innocent unless and until he is found guilty in law.

It’s a pity that such basic tenets of natural justice were not adhered to by Mr Assange, Wikileaks, Kroll, Mwalimu Mati, and US and UK diplomats.

This is an edited version of an article first published in The Star newspaper, Kenya

Posted in Latest news

CHIEF JUSTICE EVAN GICHERU AND THE OUKO MURDER INQUIRY

By Martin Minns

Chief Justice Evan Gicheru

There have rightly been many tributes paid to former Chief Justice Evan Gicheru who died aged 79 on Christmas Day and whose funeral took place yesterday at St Francis church, Karen. Yet in among the justified eulogies and the tributes paid to him in the media an old untruth was yet again re-stated as fact. When talking or writing about a man whose life was dedicated to justice and ascertaining the truth, it surely behooves us to record the facts, not trade in fiction.

In a long and distinguished career which saw Gicheru appointed as a Judge of the High Court in 1982, a Judge of the Court of Appeal in 1988 and ultimately Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya in 2003 (he retired in 2011) there were obviously many highlights, one of which was his chairing in 1990-1991 of the Commission of Inquiry into the murder of Dr Robert Ouko, Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs murdered near his Koru farmhouse on February 13 1990.

PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO DR ROBERT OUKO’S MURDER

One reporter at least, stated the Gicheru Inquiry, as it of course became known, was closed down no sooner than it was set up whereas in fact it ran from 2 October,1990 through to the 26 November 1991, 246 days during which it heard testimony from 172 witnesses.

The story that the Gicheru Inquiry was hardly allowed to sit however, is not the ‘untruth’ to which I refer. More

Dr Robert Ouko speaking at the Kenyan Embassy, Washington D.C. January 1990

columnists and reporters, and particularly the often unnamed scribes contributing to postings on the Internet, regurgitated the old story that the Inquiry was abruptly terminated just before the truth was about to be revealed and/or to protect the guilty. This was not so.

For over 11 months the Inquiry’s proceedings were extensively reported, pretty much verbatim, in the daily papers but in truth, as it ‘dragged on’, to quote a telex from the US Embassy to the State Department in Washington D.C., there were few earth shattering revelations.

BRITISH DETECTIVE JOHN TROON

On 6 November 1991, former Detective Superintendent John Troon, the New Scotland Yard detective invited in to Kenya by President Moi to investigate Ouko’s murder began giving testimony to the Public Inquiry (Troon was by now retired from New Scotland Yard). There, over a period of several days, he read out his entire Final Report which was duly recorded word-for-word in the newspapers.

New Scotland Yard Detective John Troon

John Troon was the media’s “star performer” during the Gicheru hearings but the Inquiry ultimately exposed serious flaws both in his original investigation and his Final Report.

But Troon was now under rigorous cross-examination which exposed the ‘circumstantial’, ‘tenuous’ and ‘hearsay’ nature of the testimony on which he based his report, as even Troon admitted.

He also admitted that one of his principle witnesses, Dr Ouko’s brother Barrack Mbajah, had not been entirely honest with him and that there was a row going on between them up until the minister’s death.

Troon admitted too that he had made no inquiries to the US authorities over the Washington trip allegations (based on the hearsay testimony of Barrak Mbajah that Ouko had rowed with Biwott during a presidential visit to Washington D.C. two weeks before he was murdered).

He reluctantly accepted that his Kisumu Molasses corruption theory was based “principally” on the testimony of Briner-Mattern and Domenico Airaghi, and documents that they alone had produced and admitted that he made no inquiries of the Swiss or Italian authorities to check into the background of Airaghi, Briner-Mattern or their company BAK, nor did he read the Kenyan Government’s file on the Molasses project.

Troon was questioned whether he had asked to see the government’s Molasses file when he interviewed Dalmas Otieno, the Minister for Industry.

ISHAN KAPILA CROSS EXAMINATION

Lawyer Ishan Kapila asked,  “Did you make arrangements for the provision of this file to you after that meeting?”

Troon replied, “Not that I am aware of my Lords, no”.

Troon did not personally interview Domenico Airaghi. Troon admitted at the Public Inquiry that he did not read Airaghi’s diaries because they were in Italian.

Troon made no inquires with the Italian or Swiss authorities; and he made no inquiries into the background of BAK, Briner-Mattern or Domenico Airaghi.

It was Justice Evans Gicheru who posed the question: what should Troon have done?

“What would you have expected him to do Mr. Kapila?” asked Gicheru.

Ishan Kapila struck back: “I would have expected him my lords to first check on its registered office and then check on what its share capital was, to then check its reputation in Italy and Switzerland and in Africa, to check which projects they have carried out anywhere in the world. There are a number of things that have to be done my Lords, I am not a policeman but I would think you cannot do without it.”

But Troon did none of these things.

Troon’s case was being torn apart, and for all who had eyes to see, his discomfort reported in the daily newspapers.

On the 21st November Troon suddenly announced that he had to fly to London.  He never returned.

INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE

Events outside Kenya now put President Moi under more pressure to be seen to take action.

On the 26th November international donors reduced the flow of aid to Kenya, frustrated by the slow pace of reform toward multi-party democracy and no doubt influenced by the controversy over Dr Ouko’s murder.

President Moi faced a financial crisis but he acted quickly.

That morning, the morning of the 26th, just as the powerful Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs Hezekiah Oyugi, a man mentioned ‘adversely’ in Troon’s report,  was about to give his testimony, Moi announced that the Public Inquiry had been dissolved.

KENYA POLICE ‘FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS’

Moi now appointed a team of Kenyan police officers to conduct ‘Further investigations’ into the death of Dr Robert Ouko ‘as recommended by the Troon report’.

Later the same day Oyugi, former Energy Minister Nicholas Biwott and the DC for Nakuru, Jonah Anguka, were arrested. Also arrested were Ouko’s ‘youth campaigner’ and friend’ James Onyango K’Oyoo; Administrative Police Inspector Ajuoga; Ouko’s maid Selina Were; his lawyer George Oraro; Paul Gondi, a banker; Ouko Reru, Dr Ouko’s cousin and campaign manager; and Koru farm worker Philip Rodi.

GICHERU INQUIRY COMES TO AN END

Observers were indeed taken aback by the sudden termination of the Gicheru Inquiry’s proceedings.

A telex from the British High Commission to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London expressed both their surprise and alarm.

‘We have just heard that [the] Ouko Commission has been summarily suspended. This was entirely unexpected. There has always been a central flaw in the enquiry’s terms of reference, in that the more successful it turned out to be, the more likely it was that it would need to be suspended in order not to prejudice criminal prosecutions. It could be that moment has come…’

 The British High Commission telex also put forward another version of the story ‘doing the rounds’, ‘which suggests that the suspension was in order to prevent Oyugi testifying later this week and quote telling all’.

PRESIDENT MOI’S LEGAL ADVICE

However, within a week the British diplomats had their minds put at rest:

‘Initial doubts about the motives behind the winding up of the Ouko Commission have disappeared with the publication in the official gazette of a statement signed by the President directing the Commissioners to present a report by 31 January and instructing the Commissioner of Police to speed up further investigations with a view to finding sufficient evidence to convict persons involved in Ouko’s murder… It is quite clear the arrests have taken place in the context’.

Other diplomatic correspondence from the time shows that President Moi, having had a week to read Troon’s ‘Final Report’, was advised that if the Gicheru Inquiry were to continue, its proceedings could jeopardise a subsequent trial into Dr Robert Ouko’s murder: the matter had to be handed over to the Kenyan police.

NICHOLAS BIWOTT NOT INTERVIEWED – NO ‘DAY IN COURT’

Nicholas Biwott

As for the story that Oyugi or Biwott were either protected from cross-examination, or prevented from ‘telling all’ this too is unfounded.

All those arrested apart from DC Jonah Anguka (who was tried for but acquitted of Ouko’s murder) were released following questioning by the police.

Oyugi and Biwott were held and questioned for fourteen days but no evidence was found against them.

At least Oyugi was also questioned by the British detective Troon.  Biwott was never interviewed by the Scotland Yard detective even though he was given the opportunity to do so and even though Biwott’s name was ‘adversely mentioned’ in Troon’s report.

A telex from the British High Commission to the Foreign and Commonwealth office, dated 6 June, 1990, stated that, ‘Troon has NOT/NOT interviewed Biwott despite an invitation to do so’.

 Troon also admitted to the Gisheru Inquiry that he had made one attempt to meet Biwott (when it transpired the latter was in Tehran) and made no attempt to interview him thereafter.

Former Energy Minister Nicholas Biwott was therefore never questioned by the Scotland Yard detectives; he was denied the opportunity to give testimony and face cross-examination to the Gicheru Inquiry; and subsequently he was stopped from giving his testimony to the Parliamentary Select Committee ‘investigation’ (2004-05), the Committee’s hearings called to an abrupt halt by its chairman Gor Sunguh as Biwott tried to speak.

The 1990-1991 Public Inquiry into Dr Robert Ouko’s murder under the Justice Evan Gicheru was brought to an end as a result of legal advice given to President Moi, possibly also influenced by international events and the floundering testimony under cross-examination of New Scotland Yard’s former Detective Superintendent John Troon in the last days of the Gicheru Inquiry.

Let the record show…

 

Martin Minns produced the six part documentary for Citizen TV, ‘Murder at Got Alila: Who Killed Dr Robert Ouko and Why?’, now available on Youtube.

Posted in Latest news

KENYA-UK: NEW YEAR, NEW TRADE DEAL

The UK’s International Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade, Minister Betty Maina exchange the new trade deal

It’s a new deal: as the UK leaves the European Union later today a new trade agreement between the UK and Kenya comes into force. The ‘U.K.-Kenya Economic Partnership Agreement’ comes into effect on January 1 (to be reviewed every five years).

In December Kenya signed an agreement with the U.K. to ensure continued preferential trade terms with what is its biggest European trading partner. The deal was signed in London by International Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade, Minister Betty Maina.

The trade agreement ensures that companies operating in Kenya, including British businesses, will continue to benefit from duty-free access to the UK market.

Kenya, which has the biggest economy in the East African Community, struck the bilateral deal because it is designated as a developing economy and would not be eligible for the preferential access granted to least-developed countries.

KENYAN EXPORTS TO THE UK

Kenyan exports to UK, which include tea, flowers, fruit and vegetables, will now continue to have duty- and quota-free access after the U.K. leaves the European Union.

In 2019 the U.K. accounted for almost one-third, or 40 billion shillings ($359 million), of Kenya’s 133 billion shillings worth of exports to the EU.

Kenya, which is the world’s biggest producer of black tea, exported $150 million worth of leaves to the U.K. in 2019, while sales of flowers amounted to $105 million. Meanwhile Kenya imported 35 billion shillings of goods from the U.K. or about 15% of total purchases from the EU,  including machinery, autos, pharmaceuticals, and electrical and electronic equipment.

Goods exported to the UK from Kenya in 2019 included tea, coffee and spices (£121 million); vegetables (£79 million); and live trees and plants, mostly flowers (£54 million). The UK market accounts for 43% of total exports of vegetables from Kenya as well as 9% of cut flowers.

The new trade deal will also help approximately 2,500 UK businesses exporting goods to Kenya each year.

Posted in Latest news

FIFTEEN MINUTE JOURNEY TAKES THREE AND A HALF HOURS

By Mona Ombogo

When it takes three and a half hours to make a fifteen-minute journey, a few things become clear; either the road system is failing Kenyans, or Kenyans are failing the road system.

On Christmas Eve, that’s how long it took me to get to my house in Athi River, after leaving a lunch meeting near Jomo Kenyatta International Airport; three and a half hours. There was no accident or traffic incident; just Kenyans refusing to follow the law of the road.

Motorists were driving on the road shoulders or creating extra lanes and blocking oncoming traffic; when gridlocks inevitably formed, no one wanted to give the other way. The worst bit of it, traffic police seemed to have given up trying to fix the situation; in fact, they were waving motorists to the road shoulders, encouraging them to drive off-road.

OFF-ROAD DRIVING CAUSES SNARL UPS

Off-road driving is a pet peeve for me because I believe it’s what causes our traffic snarl-ups in the first place. But, after sitting diligently in my lane for three-hours, watching other cars zip past as they disobeyed every single traffic rule, I got so upset that I joined them. I was now a part of the problem, because being a part of the solution didn’t seem to be getting me very far.

IS THIS THE STATE OF THE COUNTRY?

Off-road, it took me thirty minutes to make the rest of the journey home. I had to ask some difficult questions: is this the state of the country? Those who follow the rules are left stuck in traffic while those who don’t, those who cause the problems, zip past to their destinations without repercussion. In fact, the police, who are meant to uphold the law, encourage these characters to break it.

The irony is, if we had all just stuck to our lanes, despite the high traffic of city dwellers travelling for the Christmas holidays, that three and a half-hour journey would have taken a maximum of forty-five minutes, give or take. Cars would move slowly but steadily.

Yet, we all took matters into our own hands, and the law enhancers gave up trying to instill the law. I can’t help thinking, if you want to know the state of a country, look at their roads and how motorists behave, especially in a crisis.

WE NEED HELP…

If the state of our roads is anything to go by, then we are not in a good place in this country. We need help; help to see that sometimes the bigger picture is more important than the immediate individual need, help to understand that if we all just play our role, we all get to where we are going faster.

Our politicians like to say, ‘the law is very clear….’ But is it? I think that’s our problem, the law is not clear at all. It’s a suggestion, not a rule. That’s why we feel nothing about driving off-road and causing mayhem, and our police feel nothing encouraging us to do just that.

We need help. We need to get back to the basics, because if we all decide to interpret rules and regulations as we see fit, we are the very same people who will be stuck in traffic for three and a half hours; time we will never get back.

The law is useless if so few follow it that the lawmakers give up on instilling it.

Posted in Latest news

Who Killed Dr Robert Ouko and Why?

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