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How I beat restrictive security to sneak my baby into Parliament

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Kwale Woman Representative Zuleikha Juma Hassan says she has no regrets entering the debating Chamber of the National Assembly on Wednesday with her five-month-old baby girl.

The incident was captured by both local and international media. The Chamber is only reserved for 349 elected and nominated members, the Speaker, three clerks and, of course, the sergeant-at-arms.

Ms Hassan argues that hers was a case of agitating for the issues affecting women, especially the employed, who lack basic amenities like crèches at their work places so that they can attend to their children, including by breastfeeding, whenever needed.

She says that she had no intentions whatsoever to go against the Standing Orders, which govern the conduct of MPs, and other persons inside the Chamber or within the precincts of Parliament. The incident coincided with the breastfeeding week, but the mother of three maintains that she was not aware of the occasion.

She says that she has been having problems with who to leave her children, just like any other mother, whenever their nannies call in to say they are sick or have an emergency.

She says she learnt on Tuesday evening that her nanny would not be available. With no intentions of staying at home and miss her parliamentary duties, she resolved to carry the baby to the Chamber. “I had to plan how to drive my point home and, sure enough, it was a success,” Ms Hassan says.

“I said this is enough. Why should I miss work just because I have a baby? This made me reflect that if I don’t do it now, I should forget about it altogether,” she says adding, “I called my hubby and explained to him and he gave me the go-ahead.”

That Wednesday morning, she dressed her baby and set off to work.

“My official car was in Kwale at the time and I decided to take a cab to Bunge,” Ms Hassan said.

With the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) policy on facilitation for lactating MPs and staff of Parliament in place, passing through the heavily guarded gates of Parliament buildings was not a problem.

She later sneaked into the Chambers through the rear entrance, past an absent-minded orderly.

“He tried to block me but it was very late. I was already in the Chamber by the time he was pleading. I went straight to the front row where I wanted the Speaker to notice me easily and started breastfeeding my little angel.”

At the time, temporary Speaker Christopher Omulele (Luanda) was on the chair. “The orderlies came to me in their numbers and requested that I give them the baby. But I told them the baby would cry,” she says.

Mr Omulele later ordered her to leave the Chamber immediately, a thing she terms harsh.

“I believe if it were Mr Muturi, he would have allowed time for other members to have a say on the incident,” she says.

After making her point, she went straight to her house. Later that day, the management of Parliament ordered for the hurried refurbishment of the nursery at Continental House, where MPs have offices. By the end of the day, the room was fully equipped with cots and toys, among other baby items.

The National Assembly Friday night denied claims by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) that Ms Hassan and her baby were manhandled.

“The Standing Orders obligate the Speaker to order a member who conducts himself or herself in a disorderly manner to leave the Chamber. Ms Hassan left the Chamber in compliance with the Speaker’s directive,” said Clerk Michael Sialai.

In its statement, the LSK through its chairman Allen Waiyaki had condemned what it described as archaic act and termed it as grossly unfair and discriminatory to not only the Member of Parliament but also to the infant.

Mr Sialai said Parliament has facilities for lactating members and staff; baby day care within its precincts and that the rule of law and the Constitution is always upheld.

by nation.co.ke

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Health

Alarm as town becomes new pandemic hotspot

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Shaban Juma jumps out of his truck and walks into a shop in Jua kali town in Uasin Gishu County, to buy a cigarette.

The visibly frustrated truck driver has stayed in Jua Kali, a village trading centre located about 30 kilometres from Eldoret, for the last eight days.

He mingles with a number of residents as he returns to his truck where about ten other truck drivers from Mombasa, heading to Uganda and Congo gather for a discussion.

This has been his new routine for days. Juma left Mombasa more than a week ago and is stuck in the highway town located in Turbo constituency, Uasin Gishu County.

Business as usual

Like him, more than 700 trucks and a group of 1,400 drivers and their turn boys have been camping at Jua Kali for more than a week owing to a Covid-19 testing deadlock at the Kenya Uganda border. Despite the rising coronavirus cases, restaurants and shops are operating as usual.

Worryingly, Turbo in Uasin Gishu County is the new epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, after tests confirmed that 26 out of 28 Uasin Gishu’s coronavirus positive cases are truck drivers from Mombasa who make stopovers along towns on the highway.

Last Friday and Saturday, eight and 11 truck drivers respectively tested positive for the disease, according to daily reports by Ministry of Health.

To contain the spread, the government set up a testing centre at Huruma, one of the areas where the truck drivers have been spending the nights en route to Uganda. Jua Kali is less than ten kilometres from the mobile testing centre in Huruma.

The truck drivers and their turn boys say they decided to crowd in the small town until a traffic snarl-up occasioned by delays in Covid-19 testing in Malaba on the Kenya-Uganda, eases. Juma explains why most of them have been camping in the area instead of the border area. “We have more than 700 trucks here and more are still coming because it is better to spend the days here than be stranded on the Kenya-Uganda border,” Juma says.

He says they were tested for Covid-19 before leaving Mombasa and have never undergone the tests in Uasin Gishu, but residents along the towns are expressing fears of contracting the disease.

Truck driver Michael Kariuki says his body temperature was taken once for the entire eight days he has been camping in Turbo. Mr Kariuki says he had learnt about the rising numbers of truck drivers testing positive in Turbo yet there was no testing taking place.

He says more trucks are leaving Mombasa and they will stop in Eldoret until a traffic that has reached Webuye in the neighbouring Bungoma County. And there is a downside to these negative reports.

Fueling stigma

“The Covid-19 reports have led to our stigmatisation here in Kenya and Uganda. Ugandans are good people but the Kenyan government is recklessly publicising information that has created a perception that all truck drivers from Mombasa are Covid-19 positive. Our government should be sensitive on the reports it is relaying about us,” he says.

Lazaro Wanjohi, a trucker who has also been in Turbo for over a week, says they have been asked by authorities in Uasin Gishu not to interact with locals but no government official was enforcing the directive.

“We rarely see police providing security here. You can’t stop people interacting and buying from locals,” Wanjohi says.At a guest house along the busy highway, several Kenyan and Congolese drivers and some mechanics from Uasin Gishu, had gathered to enjoy a meal as they share their frustrations.

A worker at the joint says they were instructed not to allow truck drivers to spend the nights in the hotel but she admitted that several male clients were spending time, during the day with their girlfriends – a worrying habit. “We receive clients who spend day times with local women in the hotel rooms but sleep in their trucks at night,” the worker says.

In a spot check, The Standard discovered that several eateries along the new 35 kilometres hot spot highway stretching from Eldoret to Turbo town were receiving customers, both locals and truck drivers. Jua Kali resident Silas Kipkemboi, a mechanic, said he has not stopped fixing puncture and other technical issues for truckers despite the fears.

“They cook here at night and we share meals. During the day, most of them take their meals in eateries,” he says. Samuel Karanja, another resident said: “Most truck drivers are our friends. We do business with them. We have heard on TV that most of them are testing positive for coronavirus but here things are just normal.”

Uasin Gishu County Executive Committee member (CECM) for health Evelyne Rotich said county authorities were not in a position to monitor the conduct of truck drivers while making stopovers along the highway.

“We can’t track movements and interaction of the truck drivers. This a multi-agency issue and all of us have a responsibility to enforce the measures,” Ms Rotich said.

She said of 17 cases confirmed positive by Friday, eight of the truckers were residents of Uasin Gishu. Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago on Thursday warned truck drivers from visiting their relatives whenever they were on their way to Uganda.

“We are asking truck drivers from Uasin Gishu to spare their families during this period,” Mandago warned. Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Abdirisack Jaldesa said the issues that have been causing delays at Malaba border have been resolved.

“Moi Teaching and Referral has been testing truck drivers who have not been tested in Mombasa and those whose test certificates have expired,” the commissioner said. He added: “Yes, there have been contacts between the long distance drivers and locals. We have held meetings and this will not happen again because we are clearing all trucks in Uasin Gishu.”

By Standard.co.ke

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Entertainment

Betty Kyalo quits K24 TV

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Sassy TV presenter Betty Kyalo has ended his two-year-old relationship with K24 TV with an emotional farewell to her fans in what appears to be her last show at the troubled station.

The popular Kyalo, formerly of KTN, also hinted she will soon join a rival media station.

“I really appreciate you all. It is now time for me to say goodbye here on K24 TV. Thank you so much for your support. I appreciate you, God bless you and I love you,” she said.

Kyalo, who boasts a huge following on social media, anchors news and host two human interest shows on Friday and Saturday on K24 TV.

Kyalo’s exit was somehow expected considering the TV station’s parent company Mediamax Network Limited has been struggling financially and is set to lay off staff for in the coming month for the second time in six months.

Kyalo’s exit also comes at a time a group of employees at the company moved to court following a payment row with the management over a planned 50 percent pay-cut as a way of mitigating the coronavirus pandemic.

Mediamax Network Limited has since announced its intent to retrench staff in the coming month, the second of such an exercise since December 2019.

By NN

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Health

151 cases, but Kibra isn’t on lockdown

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The government appears hesitant to put Nairobi’s Kibra estate on lockdown despite increased number of Covid-19 cases that now stand at 151.

This figure is more than the cases recorded in Eastleigh and Mombasa’s Old Town which are on lockdown until June 6, 2020. The two areas were put under lockdown by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on May 6 after recording 58 and 67 cases, respectively. So far, Eastleigh has 121 and while Old Town has 91 cases.

Issuing yesterday’s Covid-19 update where he announced 143 new cases, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said informal settlements in the country were on the government’s radar. “We have seen increasing concern around Kibra partly because of extended testing,” said Dr Aman.

Aman announced that surveillance teams were focusing on Kenya’s largest informal.“If these numbers continue to increase, necessary interventions have to be taken,” he said. The number of Covid-19 cases in Kibra have been increasing steadily.

Between May 21 and May 28, the area had 99 cases. The adjacent Lang’ata area had 31 cases, most of which the ministry said were from Kibra.

From yesterday’s figures, where 143 people tested positive across the country, Kibra came second after Makadara estate in Nairobi. Out of the 86 cases in Nairobi, 45 were from Makadara while 21 were from Kibra.

Embakasi South come third with six cases. Langata had one case. There was no reported case from Eastleigh. Health Director General Patrick Amoth said densely populated informal settlements have become hotspots for the disease.

“It is practically difficult to ensure social distancing. The only measure left (in informal settlements) now is hygiene and use of masks,” said Dr Amoth.

According to the Director General, lack of access to clean water has played a role in the disease’s rapid spread in informal settlements.

Apart from Kibra, Eastleigh and now Makadara, Mathare is the other informal settlement which has registered more cases, the highest being 33.

So far, the disease has spread to 33 counties, the latest being Kericho which reported one case in Ainamoi area. Uasin Gishu reported 11 cases, all truck drivers.

August peak

The peak of the disease in Kenya is expected to be around August and September when the Health ministry predicts a daily tally of 200. “By then, we will be at 4,000 or 5,000 cases and by our fatality ratio, we will be at 160 or 180 deaths then,” said Amoth.

Up to 63 people have died so far from the disease, majority being those with underlying health conditions like asthma, hypertension, diabetes and heart conditions. Majority of the dead were more than 55 years old, prompting the Health ministry to issue caution on unique symptoms of the disease among the elderly. The common symptoms synonymous with Covid-19 are cough, fever, difficulty in breathing and cold.

“The elderly may have different symptoms that include lethargy, diarrhea, confusion, anxiety, unexplained strokes, loss of taste or brain inflammation,” said Amoth.

By Standard.co.ke

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