WHO Cautions Against Rise in Depression, Anxiety and Substance use Disorders

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has cautioned against a rise in depression, anxiety and substance use disorders as the economic & social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase.

According to a new policy brief by WHO and the United Nations, specific population groups are at particular risk of COVID-related psychological distress. These include, Frontline health-care workers, faced with heavy workloads, life-or-death decisions, and risk of infection, are particularly affected. 

Children, adolescents and older people especially those living alone are also at risk as well and people with pre-existing mental health conditions.

Women

Women, particularly those who are juggling home-schooling, working from home and household tasks, have also been cited among those at risk of developing mental disorders.

WHO director, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said mental health is just as important  as physical health and the pandemic is serving us this reminder.

“The #COVID19 pandemic is reminding us once again that #mentalhealth
is just as important as physical health. As the economic & social impacts of the pandemic expand, we can expect to see a rise in depression, anxiety and substance use disorders,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The WHO director further called for substantial investment to avert a mental health crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the need to urgently increase investment in services for mental health or risk a massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months”, he said.
Increased Alcohol Consumption
The policy paper has also reported an increase in alcohol consumption, saying it’s another area of concern for mental health experts.
Statistics from Canada for instance report that 20% of 15-49 year-olds have increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus further stated that that mental health needs must be treated as a core element of the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is now crystal clear that mental health needs must be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This is a collective responsibility of governments and civil society, with the support of the whole United Nations System. A failure to take people’s emotional well-being seriously will lead to long-term social and economic costs to society,” the WHO boss.

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Domestic Violence on the Rise – Lock down Chronicles

woman stabs boyfriend to death in Nairobi’s Umoja estate

By Winnie Kabintie

Cases of domestic violence are reportedly on the rise in the country as the impact of COVID-19 continues to bite.

Social Isolation

As countries continue to enforce lockdowns to encourage social isolation and as most employees continue working from home, while the most unfortunate have lost their jobs,  families are retreating to their homes and unlike on normal days where the home has been a haven for rest and comfort, homes are turning out to be this “chaotic” place where people are forced to contain 24 hours a day, seven days a week without much of a choice.

Economic anxiety and Poverty 

A majority of Kenyans live below a dollar a day with a good number of families relying on the Jua Kali sector to irk a living. This is one of the sectors that have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

People are therefore stuck at home and with no money to even afford the basic needs and this has led to social frictions as everyone tries to cope both mentally and socially.

As more people continue to lose jobs or face salary cuts, even the security of shelter for the majority of Kenyans who rely on renting hangs in the balance as families struggle to put food on the table and raise the monthly rent as well.

Unfortunately, with social isolation and curfew regulations, people can no longer enjoy social amenities and lifestyles that would allow them to step out and let off some steam as one Patrick Onyango, father of two shares.

Disagreements are normal in a family and sometimes anger and frustrations can drive people to do the unthinkable. Usually for me in such moments, I prefer to step out for a walk or drive out for a drink with the boys to allow things to cool off but now with the curfew, it’s impossible, so don’t be surprised to hear more cases of domestic violence during this lockdown period” said Patrick.

Rise in Domestic Violence and Abuse

According to recent estimates from the United Nations Population Fund, three months of quarantine will result in a 20 percent rise in domestic violence and abuse (more commonly referred to in clinical settings as “intimate partner violence” or “IPV”)  throughout the world.

In total, the report predicts at least 15 million additional cases of IPV will occur as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns.

On Sunday, Police arrested a 29-year-old woman after she allegedly stabbed her boyfriend to death in Umoja estate, Nairobi.

According to neighbors, Vigilance Shighi and her 33-year-old boyfriend, Edward Okello, have been fighting a lot in the last couple of months.

Last month, another woman in Kakamega stabbed her husband to death before turning the knife to her self and ripped her intestines out, allegedly after a quarrel over Ugali.

In the same month, Naomi Wanjiku, A court clerk killed her husband and daughter in a chilling attack at Kioru village in Kirinyaga County. As reported by The Daily Nation, Naomi Wanjiku, attacked her husband Charles Murimi, 49, and their daughter Vallerie Njeri, 13, in their sleep with an axe around 3 am.

Child Abuse

Children are also being exposed to abuse, both physical and sexual during this lockdown period and as the government continues to intensify efforts to fight Covid-19, it is also prudent for relevant authorities on matters gender to step up and come up with urgent interventions to curb domestic violence and child abuse during this season.

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Silvia Romano, Italian Aid Worker Kidnapped in Kilifi in 2018 Freed

23 year old Italian volunteer abducted in Malindi

Silvia Romano, the 25 year old Italian aid worker who was kidnapped by suspected Al shabaab militia in Kilifi county in 2018, has been freed.

Ms Romano was reportedly released on Saturday, following interventions from the Italian, Turkish and Somali governments.

She was received by her parents and sister, and Italy’s prime minister and foreign minister when she landed in Rome.

Silvia Romano, who was at the time a volunteer at Africa Milele Onlus, an NGO operating in the area, was abducted in November 2018, after armed gunmen raided a shopping center at Chakama, Kilifi county (about 80 kilometers west of Malindi town) and abducted the then 23-year old Italian woman.

Five other people were left injured during the incident, including a 10-year-old boy, who was shot in the left eye.

CUBAN DOCTORS ABDUCTED IN MANDERA

In April last year, Two Cuban doctors, Dr Herrera Correa and Dr Landy Rodriguez ,were also abducted by suspected Al Shabaab militants in Mandera County.

A week after the abduction of the two doctors, the government withdrew all Cuban doctors deployed in Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties.

GOVERNMENT WITHDRAWS CUBAN DOCTORS FROM NORTH EASTERN KENYA

 

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Digital Technologies Play Vital Role in Fight Against Covid-19 Pandemic

Singapore Launched TraceTogether APP for COVID-19 contact tracing

By Winnie Kabintie

As countries across the globe continue to fight the spread of Corona Virus, digital technologies have proven to be quite critical in confronting the pandemic as well as tackling the social and economic disruptions that have been brought about by COVID-19.

Communication

Timely and efficient communication is quite crucial during a crisis and digital media platforms has made it possible for governments to provide accurate and reliable information on national COVID-19 developments.

In Kenya for instance, the Ministry Of Health has been quite active on Twitter and continues to relay crucial health information to the public.

The ministry has also set up Help hotlines where members of the public can access psychological support as well as report suspected corona virus cases. Concerned citizens have been using the hotlines to report their neighbours who break social distancing regulations.

Digital Contact Tracing

Contact tracing has always been vital in controlling the spread of infectious disease outbreak  and some countries have been leveraging on technology to trace the people who have interacted with those that have tested positive for corona virus.

Basically, contact tracing works simply by asking a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 to list down the people they have been in contact with then health officials set out to trace them. These contacts are then traced, asked to self-isolate as well as get tested and if need be are quarantined.

Although lack of adequate resources is impeding the contact tracing process in most countries, technology is making it possible for governments to leverage on digital contact tracing.

TraceTogether -Singapore

contact tracing bracelets- Honk Kong

Singapore was among the first countries to adopt digital contact tracing to combat spread of COVID-19 after the county launched  a mobile app called TraceTogether in March, 2020.

TraceTogether works by exchanging short-distance Bluetooth signals between phones to detect other participating TraceTogether users in close proximity. Records of such encounters are stored locally on each user’s phone.

Honk Kong’s Electronic Wristbands

Honk Kong introduced mandatory electronic wristbands to help in contact tracing and control the spread of COVID-19. The wristbands tip off authorities when people under quarantine leave their homes.

COVIDSafe app

Australia has been using it’s COVIDSafe app since April 15th to speed up contacting people exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19). More than 3.5 million people downloaded the app in the first five days following its release.

Last month, Google and Apple announced that they are building a contact tracing system that would use Bluetooth to track COVID-19 cases via mobile phones. The system would allow a person who tests positive for the virus to tell the app, which will then notify all of the people whose phones were nearby.

Covid-19 Relief Funds

GOK using MPESA for cash transfers to vulnerable population

Technology has also made it possible for government’s to channel relief funds and aid to vulnerable citizens in order to cushion them against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Kenya, mobile payment platform MPESA has made it possible for the first time in history, for the government to provide cash transfers to poor households.

The cash transfers are proving to be more beneficial to families, perhaps more than the traditional food donations as beneficiaries are able to plan and meet their most pressing house hold needs including medication. The cash transfer option also eradicates logistics associated with food donations, which end up eating into the aid kitty.

Online Learning

Education is one of the sectors that have been greatly been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and schools have remained closed. Some schools have already adopted e-learning platforms to ensure their students continue with their studies. Although this has been a challenge in public schools in the country, schools are trying their best to make do with what they have, including basic social media platforms like WhatsApp.

Technology alone will definitely not end corona virus but it provides effective and timely frameworks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19  and will continue to play a crucial role in combating the pandemic especially when lock down and social distancing restrictions are lifted.

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Women Empowerment has a Ripple Effect on Kenya’s Economic Prosperity

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic and gender equality
Image courtesy

By Winnie Kabintie

As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies and continues to spread across the globe, perhaps other than the economic meltdown the crisis presents, another major area of concern is the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and the enforced lockdowns adopted by affected countries on the health and wellbeing of women especially in developing nations.

Throughout history, women and children have been the biggest victims of war and natural disasters and the catastrophe brought about by coronavirus has not spared them either.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Gender Equality

The COVID-19 pandemic, which comes within the dispensation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not only threatens to sabotage some of the gains made in advancing SDG 5 (Gender Equality), but goes along away to illustrate the importance of empowering women and girls.

In Kenya, cases of increased domestic and Sexual Violence are already being reported and dozens of families, where women are the sole breadwinners, are nearly at the verge of starvation because Mama can no longer step out to hustle and even when she attempts, business is bad and she will still go back home empty-handed.

Mother, 7 children Kicked Out By Landlord Over Rent Arrears As Nairobi Battles Corona Virus

Perhaps the story of, a middle-aged woman whose story went viral on social media a week ago after her landlord kicked her out over Sh 6,000 rent arrears and was forced to spend three nights in the cold with her seven children in Nairobi’s low-income Kayole estate, paints the picture of exactly the plight of the majority of women and children in poor households.

If well-wishers had not come to the aid of Mama Kayole, she and her children would have definitely spent a few more nights in the cold, exposing the family to both security and health threats.

In a moment of desperation, the mother would perhaps in the worst-case scenarios, just like many in the slums, force her older children to trade sex for money.

“I’m happy that this woman has gotten help and is no longer out in the cold but I hope the well-wishers included a family planning package in that shopping bag” one Mwas James tweeted.

Mwas’ sentiments were shared by several other Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) and looking at the picture of the woman and her seven kids, who follow each other in close succession, you would understand why.

While Mama Kayole was suffering due to lack of a month’s rent, another woman not just in the slums but even in the middle income and perhaps leafy suburbs is stuck in an abusive marriage because of lack of options; “where will she go” “how will the children eat and go to school” and another lot who are not on contraceptives are waking up every morning, praying that they did not conceive the night before.

Sexploitation

A week ago, I drove into Kiambu Slums to deliver some sanitary kits in a church where we convene some teenage girls in the area for a mentorship programme over the school holidays and I bumped into a brother to one the girls on my way to the church.

I was shocked when I inquired from the young man on his sister’s whereabouts and he informed me that Janet (not her real name) left the house the previous day in the company of their mother’s male friend and is yet to return.

I nearly, wept, Janet is only 14 years old and just joined form one early this year. I had to follow the boy home to talk to the mother and all she could say, quite casually like it made it okey was that the daughter was not the one dating her male friend but her friend and Janet had only accompanied them.

“walikuwa wamenda tu out kidogo wabuiwe lunch alafu warudi lakini masaa ya curfew ikawazuia” / they had just stepped out to be bought lunch then they come back but they got caught up in the curfew hours and had to spend the night.

It was shortly after 4 pm and Janet, who left home the day before barely at noon, was nowhere to be seen.

Janet’s mother is a widow and has been raising her four children singlehandedly, she has been selling mitumba (second hand) clothes for a living but thanks to the Coronavirus crisis, her business has caved in.

Like many girls in the slums, Janet will probably end up pregnant and might not finish her high school education at least not at the same period with her peers if at all she doesn’t opt to undergo a back street abortion.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Planned Parenthood is quite essential not just for families but for development. An empowered woman will make better choices than the woman in Kayole and Janet’s mum and girls like Janet do not have to grow up believing that men are their ticket to a better life.

A woman with minimal childbearing responsibilities is also better placed to hustle and get productively immersed in the job market without having to subject her young children to premature “hustling” to supplement the family income.

In a country that is largely patriarchal but also where single parenting is increasing by the day, women empowerment is quite crucial.

An economically empowered woman is better placed to make and contribute informed household decisions and invest in her children’s welfare and education. She is also able to make her own reproductive health decisions.

Teenage pregnancies

Kenya is making some notable efforts in advancing Gender Equality and has some progressive laws in curbing sexual offenses and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), however teenage pregnancies continue to rise owing to high levels of poverty, early marriages among other things and the situation is bound to get worse at the end of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Education

The high rate of unemployment in the developing countries notwithstanding, education has proven to be a great tool and key determinant in improving the welfare of families and alleviating poverty and we need more of it.

Policies are good and provide the framework for legislation but to achieve Gender Equality in the country, advance women empowerment and end ills such as teenage pregnancies, early marriages backstreet abortions, we need a shift in societal gender roles and perceptions.

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TOP MOST READ BOOKS IN KENYA 2018

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