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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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Haji orders arrest of CS Rotich, top State officers over dams scam



The Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji has ordered the arrest of senior government officials over fraud linked to two multi-purpose dams in Kerio Valley Key among those to be arrested include Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich (National Treasury), PS National Treasury Kamau Thuge, Dr Susan Koech PS East Africa Community, David Kipchumba Kimosop MD Kerio Valley Development Authority, Kennedy Nyakundi (National Treasury), Titus Mureithi and Jackson Njau Kinyanjui among others.

Haji said the officials broke the law on public finance management and flouted procurement rules and committed illegalities in the Arror and Kimwarer dams fraud.He said he has gathered sufficient evidence to prosecute the perpetrators.  “The persons we are prosecuting today were mandated to safeguard public interest but failed,” he said.

According to DPP, the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) flouted the procurement rules in handing the Arror and Kimwarer dams contract to CMC di Ravenna in which the contract was inflated by Sh17 billion from the initial Sh46 billion.

He says the contractor (CMC di Ravenna) also submitted a design of the dams four years after the required time.

“We borrowed, the loan had an interest, borrowed more money to pay for the interest, this is massive loss of public finance.”On July 10, 2019, a team of top Kenyan security officials flew to Italy to recover money paid by Treasury for stalled Sh65 billion Arror and Kimwarer dams in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

Sources told The Standard that Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti and select State Law Office officers arrived in Italy with evidence of the said fraud to convince their Italian counterparts for action.

Part of the evidence was the Auditor General’s report that showed more than Sh4 billion was paid for the stalled work. The team had met Italian ambassador to Kenya Alberto Pieria and talked about fighting graft and related crimes.

“The discussions centred on possible collaboration between Italy, EACC, DCI and ODPP on capacity building, mutual legal assistance and investigation in combating corruption,” said Twalib Mbarak, the EACC CEO.

While in Italy, the team sought to meet an Italian Government-owned insurer, Service Assicurativi Del Comercio Estero (SACE), which was paid Sh11.1 billion as an insurance premium for a loan to build the two dams.“We are paying interest on a loan that we don’t know about. In fact, we may default and that is why the team is in Italy to see how we can have the money back,” said an official who was aware of the issue.

Another official said: “The deal was government-to-government; however it has now turned commercial. We cannot secure a loan and also pay for the insurance of the same.”

He regretted that the loan had matured and that the government was required to start serving it without a project on-site.

National Treasury CS Henry Rotich paid Sh11.1 billion as the insurance premium for the Sh65 billion loan to build the two dams.Experts say this suggests that Kenya paid 15 times over the fair rate to the Italian government-owned credit insurer for insuring the loans procured from a consortium of banks led by Intesa San Paolo.

This formed a subject of interest for investigators to determine why SACE charged 17.5 per cent of the loan amount as premium, against industry rates averaging 1.5 per cent.Rotich said his ministry was not involved after project identification, prioritisation and procurement were completed by the line ministry and the implementing agency, Kerio Valley Development Authority.

Rotich also acknowledged that he released Sh7.8 billion to KVDA for onward transmission to CMC di Ravenna, as an advance payment to help kick start the project.

By Standard

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Why it’s hard to stop betting



In probability, if you toss a coin, you cannot get a head and a tail at the same time. It is one or the other, a gamble. This is what betting is about — you win or lose, there is no middle ground.

Yet, thousands of young Kenyans are addicted to gambling. A GeoPoll report in 2017 shows that the country has the highest number of gamblers in sub — Saharan Africa, with sports betting the most popular form of gambling. Further, 40 percent of low-income consumers are unemployed and 29 percent are students.

The government’s refusal to renew the licences for some betting companies comes at a time when many individuals are addicted to betting and have turned it into an income-generating activity.

Is it the allure of quick riches?

Abigail Khamati, 32, has been betting for the last four years and the government’s move has left her without a stable source of income. She acknowledges that betting is her biggest hustle and yes, the thought of making instant riches excites her.

“I depend on what I get from betting to meet most of my expenses, say house rent and other personal needs,” she says. “Using the money earned from gambling, I was able to start a side hustle — selling men’s clothes.”

Although she is addicted to betting, she is quick to defend herself as a responsible gambler.

“I am a football fan. My favourite team is Arsenal and I started betting because I realised that I was good at predicting the outcome of football matches. What began as a pastime became a good source of income,” she offers.

“It derives some attributes from business; you have to be resilient and willing to take risks. I spend Sh10,000 to Sh 20,000 every weekend. I decided to bet only on weekends because that is when there are more matches and I can concentrate fully.” she says.

“Should I lose a game, I take a break, say one day, then start betting again. Last year, I lost more than Sh100,000 but also made more than that. At one time, I placed a Sh1,500 bet and won Sh 80,000,” she offers.

While she has lost thousands, of shillings, she is not ready to stop because of the returns, and the fact that it is instant money.

Clare Sunguti, 29, comes from a betting family. Her father and six siblings are also into betting, which she considers too inviting to stop. “I am not a football fan but I was inspired by my brother when he won Sh64,000 in December 2016. At home, we would regularly contribute money and bet. Once we won Sh 110,000 and my brothers encouraged me to start playing solo,” she says.

Advances in technology have made it easier to bet. Those without, say football knowledge, can ask for tips and odds through the various social media platforms.

Sunguti is a marketer by profession and sells cosmetics and groundnuts on the side. Whatever profits she makes, she channels into betting. not borrow or take loans to place bets,” she offers.

Meanwhile, just the mention of betting brings bad memories to Stephen Muriithi, whose name we changed to protect his privacy.

The former bank teller was introduced to betting by a customer in 2016, and it led to his downfall, including his job.

He started by using Sh500 a day before doubling the amount. But even the loss of Sh50,000 did not bring him back to his senses.

“By the time the bank fired me, I had exhausted my savings and was more than Sh300,000 in debt. It took my mother and a few friends to get me out of betting,” he says.

Isaac Maweu, a counselling psychologist, classifies gambling as a process addiction like pornography.

“Most people bet with the expectation of winning big and whenever they lose, the mind is conditioned to think that they might win the following day, so they continue. Before you know it, you are addicted.

The process brings about various effects such as anxiety, depression, criminal activities to support the behaviour, guilt and strained relationships,” he says, adding that it is possible to get out of it through self-regulation and commitment.

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Ruto addresses his “assassination plot” allegations, says he has spoken to Uhuru about it



Kenya’s Deputy Pesident William Ruto has, for the first time ever, spoken about allegations about a plot to assassinate him.

Speaking to K24’s Anne Kiguta, Mr Ruto sought to dodge most of the questions on the topic. However, a persistent Kiguta sought ansers to her hard hitting questions. She also pushed him to answer questions on his 2022 ambitions, his wealth, unfulfilled campaign promises and the SGR project, among other issues. Watch:


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