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How lack of child-friendly loos is causing parents distress

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A middle-aged woman stands along the corridor between the ladies’ and men’s washrooms on the first floor at Garden City Mall in Nairobi. On the surface, she looks like someone who is torn between using either the “ladies” or the “gents”.

Few seconds later, a boy of about five years staggers from the men’s washrooms. Zipping up his trousers and inspecting his hands, the lady asks him if he has washed his hands.

Stammering, the obviously mortified boy tells her that the sink was too high for him. The seemingly impatient woman drags the boy toward the ladies’ washrooms in spite of his resistance.

While this might strike one as a normal procedure, lack of washrooms designed specifically for children is a ordeal that parents and guardians routinely go through in malls and other public places in Kenya.

A spot check by Saturday Nation in Nairobi’s leading restaurants, malls including the The Hub, Prestige Plaza, Junction Mall, Thika Road Mall (TRM) and Garden City and other popular public amenities paints an unflattering picture — most of these facilities do not have restrooms for children.

A significant number of these do not provide potties while their toilet and urinal bowls are either too high or too wide for children’s use.

Those that have family washrooms fall short of providing maximum safety for them, with most lacking anti-skid surfaces, which exposes small children to fatal falls.

Java restaurant along Kimathi Street provides a surface for mothers to change their babies’ diapers in the ladies’ washroom. The men’s restroom, however, does not have a similar feature, should a nursing dad wish to change attend to his baby.

The rest of city restaurants and hotels have neither changing rooms for babies nor facilities that help young children to use the bathroom with ease.

The men’s urinal at TRM for instance, has urinal bowls for young boys. These feature steps on which young boys stand as they pass urine. But even so, these boys have to share the facility with older men.

At the nearby Garden City Mall, only men, women and people living with disabilities have designated restrooms. Children use the facility chosen by the accompanying parent, often to the child’s discomfort.

Unlike in Kenya, many states in the US have laws that require public facilities with more than six toilets to have at least one family restroom.

In many countries in the world, public facilities insist that children older than seven years must use gender-appropriate restrooms.

While a seven-year-old boy or girl may use a toilet unassisted, parents often fear for their children’s safety in the washrooms, owing to cases of defilement and even kidnapping.

Mercy Njeru, a human resource expert and a mother of two boys and one girl aged nine, six and two respectively, believes that separate washrooms for children in malls, restaurants, worship facilities and other public places is not an option but a necessity.

“My greatest fear as a mother is defilement and possible abduction of my children. We live in a country where scary stories of child molestation are rising by the day,” Njeru says. According to her, use of public washrooms, for instance, is a dreadful experience.

“As a parent, you are never sure of the levels of hygiene in the washroom, and as a mother, you cannot enter the “gents” to supervise your son. While waiting outside, you are also not sure if he is following the dos and don’ts of proper toilet use such as sanitising the toilet seat that you have discussed with him. This exposes your child to all manner of germs,” Njeru laments.

Njeru wonders why, for instance, the children’s changing room is the same for both boys and girls at most swimming pools.

“Sometimes I allow my boys to use the men’s changing room even as this makes me uncomfortable. I am always worried about who else might be in the facility and what their motives might be. Yet, as a woman, I cannot just storm the men’s facility to check before my sons go in. It gets very hairy when they take longer than expected,” she says.

She adds: “It’s embarrassing to stand out of the men’s facility and call out their names as they change or relieve themselves. But their safety comes first. I haven’t had a scare, but I am always uneasy whenever they are using washrooms with adults.”

Njeru says supervising her two-year-old daughter with the toilet is easier, as she goes with her to the “ladies”.

Susan Mbabazi, an office assistant in the city, has two nieces and a nephew, all aged below 10 years. On most weekends, she takes them out to play, to eat out and to have fun at the mall.

“My nephew is six years. Whenever I am out with them, the boy must strictly use the ladies’ bathroom. It is safer for him and even myself,” she says.

Susan adds that she cannot risk taking the boy to the men’s washroom “to sooth his ego”. She, however, notes that even ladies’ washrooms are not the best for minors either.

“There are careless women who will be walking naked in the bathroom without a care in the world. Others change their bras in front of the mirror in the glare of everyone in the room. Some iron their panties in the open. As an aunt, these are not spectacles you want a minor to see,” she regrets, adding that malls with gym facilities are notorious for such abandoned behaviour.

The worries of Pauline Wanjira, a mother of two sons aged six and one from Kasarani in Nairobi, are not any different. For Pauline, visiting the malls and other high-traffic public places is a nightmare, especially when they have to use the washroom or change diapers.

“I have had several awkward moments in malls when taking my children out. My son thinks he is old enough to mind himself. Whenever we are at the mall, he insists on using the ‘gents’ but I can’t allow him to use the men’s washrooms if his dad is not with us,” Pauline says, adding: “People are so evil these days and I can’t risk letting him off my sight for even a moment.”

“One time, I was forced to go back home to change my baby’s diapers because the mall did not have a facility for that. It was so frustrating,” she narrates.

“My elder son refuses to use the women’s bathroom. I am always able to make him use it, usually after an argument. But this leaves him embarrassed,” Pauline explains.

As a safety measure, Pauline ensures that her son has used the toilet before leaving home to avoid problems at the mall.

“I am now used to changing my baby’s diapers and suckling him in the car. But malls can do better to help mothers with young children,” she says.

Kindergarten teacher and mother of a teenage boy Nelly Osako says that even schools for small children should promote washrooms for the different sexes, noting that children need to understand the differences in their anatomy from early on.

source:nation.co.ke

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Austrian tourist’s binge turns tragic in Mtwapa

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Just after midnight on September 4, Armin Roger Roeseler left Indiana Hotel with his friend Dietmar Markus and headed to Casuarina Club in Mtwapa, Kilifi County.

At the club, two women identified as Everylne Chengetich and Lydia Nyaboke joined Mr Roeseler — who was visiting Kenya for the first time — and his host Markus.

As the partying progressed, Mr Roeseler, a body builder, allegedly inquired from the women where he would get cocaine.

“They had little knowledge of where they could get the drug and requested for help from a taxi driver who volunteered to guide the foreigners,” states a police report.

Mr Roeseler, 47, gave the taxi driver Sh10,000 to fetch the drug. He reportedly injected himself in the arm with the substance and went on drinking at the club.

Police records show he began feeling sick and made several trips to the toilet. As things got worse, Markus advised him to return to their hotel. “He refused and went on partying until 4am when his condition worsened,” reads the police report.

Shortly afterwards, he lost consciousness. Bouncers rushed him to the nearby Jambo Jipya Medical Clinic, where he was referred to Jocham Hospital in Mombasa.

He was pronounced dead on arrival. An autopsy revealed that his death was caused by a drug overdose. The two women were arrested, recorded statements and charged at Shanzu Law Court with the murder of Mr Roeseler.

On Monday the women appeared before Shanzu Senior Resident Magistrate David Odhiambo but did not take plea.

State Counsel Rosemary Nandi said they were reviewing the file before making a decision on charges they may prefer against them. “The file has not been brought to court because the ODPP is still reviewing the evidence gathered before a decision is made on the fate of the suspects. We ask for more time to avail the file,” Ms Nandi said. Sources privy to the investigations said the two might be discharged because the postmortem report indicated that Mr Roeseler died of a cocaine overdose.

Prepared by Jocham Hospital, the postmortem report shows the drug affected his nervous system.

But, while asking for more time to detain the suspects, investigating officer Sammy Oyaro said Mr Roeseler might have been drugged.

“I am yet to record statements from all witnesses,” said the officer.

The court directed that they remain in custody for two more days.

They were detained at Mtwapa Police Station as investigations continue.

The body of the deceased was cremated in Nairobi on September 6, after his family — based in Austria — gave the consulate the green light to do so.

Police said Mr Roeseler had been in Kenya for barely three weeks. He was invited by Markus, who once lived in Diani, Kwale County, before moving to Mtwapa.

Cases of revellers being drugged are rampant in Mtwapa, the ‘village that never sleeps’, due to its vibrant night life. It has hundreds of clubs that attract tourists from Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.

BY nation.co.ke

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Increasing suicide cases shake Kirinyaga

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Three people died by suicide in Kirinyaga County on Tuesday, raising concerns among national government officials.

The body of 34-year-old Stephen Kinyua was found hanging from a tree in Kiaragana village while that of John Maina was found inside a house in Riakiania.

At Thumaita village, residents were shocked when they stumbled upon Peter Kinyua’s body hanging from a tree.

They reported the matter at Kianyaga Police Station.

The three, from different villages, did not leave suicide notes to explain their actions.

Their bodies were taken to Kerugoya Referral Hospital mortuary.

Ndia Deputy County Commissioner Mr Moses Ivuto said cases of suicide were on the rise in the region.

“They are reported on daily basis. We are concerned,” Mr Ivuto said, citing domestic feuds and drug abuse.

“When men quarrel with their spouses and abuse drugs, they kill themselves.”

He called on local church leaders to intervene.

“Church leaders should embark on aggressive counselling of residents, men in particular, so that we do not continue losing more lives this way,” he said.

By nation.co.ke

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US cancer survivor swims across English Channel

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An American breast cancer survivor on Tuesday became the first person to swim across the English Channel four times non-stop in a 54-hour feat of endurance.

Sarah Thomas, 37, an open water marathon swimmer from the US state of Colorado, could be seen in a video posted on Facebook arriving at Dover on the southern English coast with a group of supporters cheering her on.

“I feel a little sick,” she is heard saying following the herculean effort, which reportedly saw her cover close to 130 miles (209 kilometres) due to strong tides.

Only four swimmers have previously completed the approximately 21-mile Channel crossing between Britain and France three times without stopping.

“I just can’t believe we did it,” Thomas told the BBC.

“I’m really just pretty numb. There was a lot of people on the beach to meet me and wish me well and it was really nice of them, but I feel just mostly stunned.”

Thomas said the hardest part was dealing with the salt water, which left her throat and mouth sore, while she also got stung in the face by a jellyfish.

The athlete relied on a protein recovery drink mixed with electrolytes and caffeine – which was tied to a rope and thrown to her every 30 minutes – to complete the feat, according to her mother.

Endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh wrote on Twitter that her achievement was “extraordinary, amazing, super-human”.

“Just when we think we’ve reached the limit of human endurance, someone shatters the records,” he wrote.

In a post on Saturday before setting off, Thomas wrote: “This swim is dedicated to all the survivors out there.

“This is for those of us who have prayed for our lives, who have wondered with despair about what comes next, and have battled through pain and fear to overcome,” she wrote.

The marathon swimmer received the cancer diagnosis four months after an unprecedented August 2017 non-stop solo swim of 104.6 miles in Lake Champlain on the US-Canada border.

She underwent treatment for the aggressive form of breast cancer – which had already begun spreading to the lymph nodes under one of her arms – in the summer of 2018, according to a fundraising website for a documentary about her achievements.

“I was at the peak of my athletic accomplishments… and then I got diagnosed with cancer,” Thomas said in a video posted on the Kickstarter website.

“It’s part of who I am now, part of my story. I just hope it never comes back but if it does, to know that I did everything I wanted to do in life.”

In the video Thomas, who finished her first open-water event in 2007 and had previously made two Channel swims in 2012 and 2016, said swimming across the Dover Strait had been a lifelong dream and “just as hard as climbing Mount Everest”.

“When you’re a kid you just dream of swimming the English Channel.”

By nation.co.ke

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