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Death, pain as Hepatitis B wracks Kerio Valley



He sat pensively on a stone holding a picture of his deceased son, tears flowing as he narrates how he spent all he had to save his life from the deadly Hepatitis B disease, which has claimed 50 lives in the vast Kerio Valley.

Meet Kiptai Abeta, 69, from the remote Tekechuch village in Kerio Valley in Baringo North, who is yet to come to terms with the demise of his third son, who died of the deadly disease in February after suffering for more than 10 years.

His elder son, Kipkemoi Kiptai, also died of the disease 10 years ago.

The latest victim, 32, died five months ago at the Baringo County Referral hospital in Kabarnet after being discharged from the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret where he had been hospitalised for more than four months.

“I have now been reduced to a pauper after spending all I had on the medication of my two sons who have since died of Hepatitis B. I sold all my livestock thinking that they would survive only for them to die,” Mr Abeta narrated.

According to the old man, he sold more than 12 cows to cater for his son’s medication in different hospitals after his health started to deteriorate in 2017.

“He had been complaining of persistent headache, chest pain and general weakness since 2008. This prompted us to take him to Kabarnet hospital where he was treated of pneumonia and released,” he said.

He explained that his situation worsened in 2017 forcing them to take him to Kabarnet again but this time he was referred to MTRH for specialised treatment. That is when he underwent several blood tests and it emerged that he was suffering from Hepatitis B.

“I was shocked of the revelation, taking into consideration that I had lost my other son to the disease years ago after spending more than Sh600,000 on his medication. He spent another four months at the facility and we were told to take him a hospital nearer home to recuperate. We brought him back to Kabarnet where he stayed shortly before he died,” said Mr Abeta.

He had to seek the assistance of his friends and neighbours after his medical bill at MTRH accumulated to more than Sh800,000.

He added: “He left behind a very young family; a wife and two children, whom I have also been tasked to look after. We are living from hand to mouth,” said the old man.

When the Nation team visited the family on Thursday, we established that none of them had been vaccinated except for his son’s widow.

The deceased’s fresh grave could be seen 10 metres from his two mud-walled houses.

Sote Cherop, 70, a relative, raised concern over the lack of vaccination against the killer disease despite handling many Hepatitis patients over the years.

“We are now living in fear because we do not know if we are safe from the disease. We have so far lost two relatives whom we were handling when they were sick but we are yet to be tested and vaccinated against it. We are just living at the mercies of God,” said the distraught Ms Cherop.

At the neighbouring Chemintany village approximately 10 kilometres away, Samuel Kiptala, 63, had also suffered a big blow after losing three of his children to the disease. Two others have since tested positive and are still undergoing treatment.

His three children, Abraham Boit, Elijah Chemweno and Rhoda Chemweno Kakuko died in 2009, 2015 and 2019 respectively.

According to medical cards produced from the various hospitals attended by the deceased, tests on the three showed that they were suffering from Hepatitis B.

The latest death occurred on February 25, where he lost his daughter Rhoda to the killer disease.

In a burial programme dated March 4, seen by the Nation, Rhoda succumbed to her illness at Milimani Crystal Cottage Hospital where she had been admitted.

The two graves of Abraham Boit who died in 2009 and Elijah Chemweno who died in 2015 are spread a metre apart in the family homestead.

“The memories I have of my two sons are the children they left behind. We have been left poor after we spent most of our funds on their medication which is too expensive,” said Mr Kiptala.

He spent Sh100,000 on the late Boit’s treatment at MTRH in 2009 and more than Sh250,000 on the late Chemweno’s medication in 2015.

After losing his children, he relocated to his Kinyach farm, more than 8km away where he lives alone so that he doesn’t endure the pain of seeing his sons’ graves every day.

Approximately 500 metres away, Ms Florence Komen sat desolately on a hide skin in her compound after a hard day’s farm work. Two graves of Darius Bartuiyot, her son and Samuel Komen, her husband lay 10 metres apart at Kapkimuny village.

Bartuiyot, 34, served at the Kodiaga Prison in Kisumu as a warder and was the family’s sole breadwinner.

He died in August last year of Hepatitis B, a year after his father died of the same disease.

According to Ms Komen, when her husband ailed in 2017, they suspected that he had been suffering from Kalaazar, another common disease in the area because he had a swollen stomach. But when his condition worsened, and he was taken to Baringo County Referral Hospital, he tested positive for Hepatitis B.

Locals in the area said most of them had not been tested for the killer disease, despite the region being one of the hotspot areas.

A resident, Maxine Kigen, said that a screening and vaccination programme rolled out by the county government in February was targeting only those who had been vaccinated earlier and contact persons.

“Only a few people were tested and vaccinated in February at Kinyach dispensary but the vaccines got depleted. We have to go all the way to Kabarnet, more than 60 kilometres away to get it, and one is not sure of getting it anyway,” said Ms Kigen.

A tour at Kinyach dispensary revealed that the nurse deployed there had closed shop because there were no drugs, including pain killers.

Samuel Kimosop, the dispensary chairman, said that common drugs have not been available for the past one month and locals were forced to seek medication in Ayatya and Arror in Elgeyo Marakwet.

“We have no test kits and vaccines for Hepatitis B here despite being the most hit area. Even drugs like painkillers got depleted a month ago,” said Mr Kimosop.

Kinyach Location chief Wilson Lokobwa said the hardest hit areas are Kinyach, Kobot, Chemintany, Songoiwo, Kalabata and Tukechuch villages.

He said that out of the 100 people tested for Hepatitis in the area in February, more than 60 turned positive and are yet to receive any treatment.

“Most people who have lost their kin are yet to be tested leave alone getting the vaccine. Those ailing are also stigmatised knowing they will just die,” said Mr Lokobwa.

Another victim, Elizabeth Kigen, 72, from Koisarat village, said that she went into depression a year ago after she tested positive for the disease.

“What astonished me most was when I sought medication in Marigat sub-county hospital, I was ushered into a room where HIV patients were being given ARVs. I protested and demanded that the medic tells me if I was suffering from Hepatitis or HIV but no one listened,” said Ms Kigen.

According to Loboi location chief Festus Kiptisia, more than 20 people have lost their lives due to the endemic disease in his area since 2015.

At Loboi dispensary, a medic said that the test kits and vaccines got depleted a month ago after they were overwhelmed by many people who were referred from Marigat sub-county hospital.

Locals in Majimoto, one of the worst hit areas in Baringo South said four people have died in the area in the last one year.

According to Baringo county epidemiologist Robert Rono, there is no data of those that had died of the disease and those that had tested positive for the disease.

“We have, however, carried vaccination in all the hotspot areas in Kerio Valley and Baringo South and it is still ongoing. We also vaccinated all the prisoners at Kabarnet prison and their staff and families as well. We are, however, not doing mass vaccination but only the contact persons,” said Mr Rono.

This is, however, contrary to what we observed because all the dispensaries in the affected areas have no test kits or vaccines. “The drugs are not administered at the dispensaries because they have to be given by a doctor after undergoing some tests. These are only found in sub-county hospitals,” he said.

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Death of festivals dims Lamu hope to revive ailing tourism



Maulid. Food and Expo. Art, yoga and kite festivals. These are just a few of a slew of art and culture experiences that Lamu County used to dish out to the world and which boosted its tourism profile.

Lamu Old Town, also known as “the island of festivals”, had a splendid array of events and festivals ranging from Eid-Ul-Adhar to the Lamu Fishing Competition, Lamu Art Festival, The Lamu Cultural Festival, Lamu Yoga Festival, the Kite Festival, Shella Hat Contest and the Lamu Painters Festival.

But these events were put on the back burner as the tourism sector took a nosedive.

Coming on the backdrop of the Mpeketoni terror attacks in 2014 that also hit tourism hard, hospitality industry players say the vital sector is in the doldrums and want the festivals reinstated. Speaking during a forum in Lamu at the weekend, hoteliers and other players questioned why the county government has not been keen in reviving the events.

Hotelier Salim Abubakar said the county’s tourism sector was on the decline after the festivals were lifted. He urged Governor Fahim Twaha to restore the events and revive the sector.

“All the festivals that were introduced in the calendar of events are crucial. They served to attract visitors, both domestic and international, to Lamu. We need them back so that the tourism sector can be improved,” he said.

Marketing strategy

Former Lamu Tourism Association (LTA) deputy chairman Ghalib Alwy said the body, in partnership with the county tourism office started the festivals to attract more tourists. Mr Alwy said it is important that the events are retained.

“We launched those events as a marketing strategy for Lamu tourism. Through them, we were able to attract tourists from Kenya, East Africa and the world. This is after the terrorism attacks led to an almost 90 percent decline of the sector. It’s only through the festivals that tourists got the confidence to visit Lamu again. The events must be reinstated,” said Mr Alwy. Mr Mohamed Hassan noted that local tourism was still doing badly, attributing the situation to a section of foreign countries that are still having active travel advisories against their citizens visiting Lamu.

“The travel advisories still play a big role in scaring away tourists. We want as many festivals as possible as they have the ability to ensure the tourism climbs back on its feet,” said Mr Hassan.

Some of the festivals known and which are still being celebrated by many in Lamu includes the annual Lamu Cultural Festival that is marked between November and December, the Maulid Festival marked every January, New Year’s Dhow Race marked on January 1 and Eid Ul-Fitr marked every July.

The festivals are said to attract more than 30,000 visitors from around the world.


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Drama as delegates heckle DP Ruto during BBI launch 




Delegates heckled Deputy President William Ruto during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report at the Bomas of Kenya over his remarks on the report

The DP was forced to pause his speech after the delegates started booing him after he appeared to express his dissatisfaction at the Youth leader Trans Nzoia County Alex Matere’s remarks about his wheelbarrow donations.

Ruto said by saying that Kenyans should not adopt 16th-century technology, Matere was referring to the wheelbarrows he has been supplying to Kenyans.

However, Ruto noted that the discussions Kenyans should have is why a 16th-century tool has millions of citizens still dependent on it in the 21st-century.

The DP’s remarks didn’t sit well with most of the delegates, which resulted in them openly expressing their displeasure and forcing him to stop talking.

Mbita Member of Parliament Millie Odhiambo appeared mainly pissed by Ruto’s remarks as he stood and jeering Ruto, drowning his speech.

He went on to ask for a minute to conclude his speech but the crowd couldn’t hear of it as they continued to jeer him after he appeared to hit out at the former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Ruto concluded his speech by calling on leaders to refrain from contests pitting the rich and the poor by quoting former US President Abraham Lincoln.

DP Ruto then proceeded to welcome his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta to make his remarks with the delegates still shouting “respect the president,” as he took his seat.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga also hit on the DP for engaging in early campaigns instead of supporting the President in delivering the Big-4 Agenda.

Raila said that Kenyans expect to be united for now but not campaigns of who will be the President in 2022 as they will handle that when the time comes.

The ODM Party leader noted that Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta should be working as a pair to bring a difference in the country.

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Uhuru maintains Raila is not government




President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday 26 October 2020 made it clear that Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga is not in the government.

Speaking at the Bomas of Kenya during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, the Head of State explained that when he decided to come into an agreement with Raila, the mission was to find a way to healing this country.

“When we sat down to talk, something that was very difficult, for him and also for me and my team, very difficult. But when we got through to it and we spoke and we spoke again, we agreed that we are not here to share positions and we should put our various positions aside,” he said.

He mentioned that the two agreed to come together with a common agenda of ensuring that what the people of Kenyan have witnessed in 1992, 2005, 2007, and 2017 Kenyans shall never witness again.

He went on to make it clear that Raila Odinga never made any demands from the government.

“We did not talk about sharing government and as we stand today, he (Raila) is not in government. He is not in government; he never made any demands for the government. He never made any demands for a share of government,” he added.

The President pointed out that Raila Odinga asked for the two opposing sides to come together and fix what has been ailing the country.

He explained that this would allow the country in the future to be able to compete without the need for the innocent Kenyans blood being shed.

He went on to that the ODM leader for showing his patriotism and looking for a solution because he did not have to do it.

Uhuru also gave special thanks to his Deputy William Ruto for being part and parcel of the handshake and making the BBI report.

He revealed the three agreed that they would never talk about elective posts as they aimed to unite Kenyans.

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