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Kenyans spending most of their cash on airtime

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Airtime is now the single item that takes up the most income for Kenyans.This is after the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) reviewed its Consumer Price Index (CPI).

After the review of the basket of goods and services used to compile CPI, KNBS gave airtime a weight of 5.496, the largest of any single consumer product.

Kenyans are putting more of their money in airtime than even rent, which had the heaviest weight three years ago from 2019. Kenyans, according to the review, are also spending more on airtime than on health or education.Matatu fares and rent for a single room are the second and third consumer items respectively.

Other expensive items that take a lot of money include white bread, milk, and beef with bones.KNBS said these revised figures will begin being used today when it releases the new CPI indices and inflation rates.

“The new numbers will reflect both the Household Final Monetary Consumption Expenditure patterns as captured in the 2015/16 Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey, as well as the monthly survey retail prices,” said Director of KNBS Zachary Mwangi in a statement.

The national statistician has also revised the income categories for Nairobi residents.

Following changes in lifestyle, consumer behaviour and tastes, several items were kicked out of the basket, including kerosene stove, radio cassette, CD player and video cassette hire.  

Decorder charges

But there were new ones such as mobile money transfer fees, university boarding fees, and TV subscription fees, for example DSTV. Other new additions to CPI include decorder charges, courier services, garbage and refuse collection. Airtime has become the new craze in Kenya. It has catapulted Safaricom to one of the largest firms in East and Central Africa. This new mobile phone craze has sneaked its way into the cost of living basket or the CPI, which policymakers now consider a serious expenditure for most individuals and households.

Today, airtime is a need that most Kenyans can’t do without. Bitange Ndemo, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT and currently a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi, in an earlier interview said airtime was no longer a luxury.

If anything, he observed, it was a matter of “life and death” for some individuals. “Airtime is so critical,” says Prof Ndemo. “Some people are using the airtime to call so they can find a kibarua (menial work).”

Between July 2016 and June last year, Kenyans spent a total of 75 billion minutes talking on their mobile phones, or 143,086 years. They sent a total of 55.2 billion SMSs during this period, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya.This means that for the entire year, the average Kenyan spent a total of two days just talking on their phone.

By Standard


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Health

MP’s battle with Covid-19 at home

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On November 2, Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama drove to Naivasha to attend the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) meeting.

Earlier, Mr Arama had taken a Covid-19 test at a health facility in Nakuru after he experienced chills at night.

However, on arrival at the hotel where he was to spend the night, he started experiencing chills again and developed fever, pain in the joints and nausea.

Soon he started experiencing shortness of breath.

He informed his colleagues that he was feeling unwell, and they quickly planned to take him to Nairobi for treatment.

Not able to walk

“When I booked into my room, my body temperature was high and I had chills. It was at that time that I received a phone call from health officials that I had tested positive for Covid-19. I had gone for the test before travelling to Naivasha,” he recalled.

But when he informed the department of health about his plan to travel to Nairobi for treatment, he was counselled and advised by the County Chief Officer of Public Health Samuel King’ori to self-isolate in his house where he would be monitored by medics.

Inside an isolation room in his house, he was put on supplemental oxygen and fed through tubes, with doctors examining him in the morning, afternoon and at night.

“For the past several weeks, I have kept off the public because I was not able to walk, talk or eat after being diagnosed with Covid-19,” said Arama.

After 15 days, he began to feed normally and later tested negative for coronavirus.

“God has been merciful to me. Gasping for air and feeding through tubes was the most trying moment in my life. Actually, this was my first time to feed through tubes and get oxygen support,” he said.

The MP plans to work with community health volunteers, the police and youth to sensitise locals on Covid-19 preventive measures.

He wants to buy at least 20,000 masks to distribute to the needy through local administrators and nyumba kumi members.

Prior to being diagnosed with Covid-19, Arama used to hold a meeting with constituents.

Initially, he used to criticise police whenever they arrested people for contravening Covid-19 protocols.

“At times I would rush to the police station whenever I heard that someone had been arrested, but now I support the police to fully enforce the set containment measures. It is through discipline that we will save the society,” he said.

He said during meetings with constituents he never thought he would contract the virus.

“I take this opportunity to thank God for giving me this second chance to serve Him and the people of Nakuru Town West,” he said.

His message to the public is to wear masks, wash hands with soap and water and avoid crowds.

“We need everyone to put on masks, wash hands with soap and water and avoid gatherings. This is the only way to contain the spread of this virus,” said the MP.

Dedication and courage

Arama applauded health workers in Nakuru, for their dedication and courage in the fight against Covid-19.

“I can confirm to you that Nakuru County has the best health facilities, equipment and qualified medical personnel. I spent two weeks on oxygen support machine, intensive treatment and consistent checkups,” he said.

Health records indicate that the attack rate in Nakuru is 169.2 out of 100,000 population, with a case fatality of 2.2 per cent.

Although the MP was reluctant to reveal the cost of his treatment, a source at the local department of health told The Standard he incurred a bill of Sh51,684 per day because he required supplemental oxygen and his condition was critical.

By Standardmedia.co.ke


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Business

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Lifestyle

The toughest 9 months: I was pregnant with cancer

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She peed in a cup at the health centre, praying that the chemotherapy was not bringing up other health problems. She had walked into the facility after feeling worse than usual. Chemotherapy effects were bad, but this morning she felt worse. She just wanted to be fine, then she would finally start enjoying her new marriage.

A few moments later, the young medical officer walked up to her with a smile. “You have nothing to worry about. You are pregnant,” he said calmly. Jackline Kanyua was not sure how to feel about the news. On one hand she was happy, motherhood did not seem like a far-fetched dream anymore.

But again, her doctor had told her that avoiding pregnancy as she went through her cancer treatment was the best thing for her health. Heck, her monthly period had even disappeared. But the doctor had assured her that the chemotherapy and the drugs she took were enough to cause that.

Yet here she was, in 2017, in her mid-20s, newly married, pregnant but with cancer; Stage 3 breast cancer that needed aggressive treatment. The journey had all began a few months earlier when she felt a tight hard lump in her breast while singing in the shower. She had been planning her wedding then. What luck? she mused.

World over, according to the World Health Organisation, one in 1,000 mothers find themselves in the very same quagmire as Jackline. And just like Jackline’s doctor, other medics warn that pregnancy could complicate cancer treatment, just as much as cancer treatment interferes with pregnancy.

Andrew Odhiambo, a Nairobi-based consultant oncologist, advises that once a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, the safest option is to avoid pregnancy.

“Getting pregnant presents serious challenges, but even the treatment itself can cause a stoppage in menstrual flow,” says Dr Odhiambo.

The biggest dilemma presented, he explains, is whether to stop treatment and carry the pregnancy to term or to terminate the pregnancy and continue with medication. If chemotherapy has to start immediately, especially in advanced cancer stages, then termination has to be done. In fact, doctors recommend that women on treatment for cancer should be on contraception until some period after the end of treatment.

“Carrying the pregnancy means stopping treatment, especially radiation or chemotherapy. Surgery can only be done after the second trimester. We always advise women to consider freezing their eggs and probably using them later once treatment is done,” Odhiambo says.

A 2019 study published in PubMed Central (PMC) affirms that radiation can be dangerous and that only non-ionising imaging methods are preferred to reduce exposure to the foetus.

“Unfortunately, not many medications can be safely used during pregnancy and mother should be exhaustive in thought about potential risks and complications of those systemic treatments,” the study states.

At the time when Jackie found out she was pregnant, she had had 10 chemotherapy sessions and a lumpectomy.

To navigate this new development, the couple made an appointment with their doctor at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), where tough decisions had to be made. The doctor gave her two options; to keep the baby and forget about the treatment or terminate the pregnancy and continue with her treatment. And being at cancer stage 3 at the time of diagnosis, this was a decision she had to make fully aware of the risks.

Abort or not?

“Keeping the baby was a huge risk but I decided to go for it. I told them that I did not require any time to think about anything because this was the best gift I could have. Or I could even give to my new husband. So I quickly signed the consent forms to stop treatment,” she recalls.

With pregnancy, several changes occur in a woman’s body. They include a drop in the number of lymphocytes that act as defence against foreign objects, including disease-causing pathogens.

“A pregnant woman naturally has increasing levels of oestrogen hormone. But these increasing levels, in the case of a pregnant woman with cancer, have a potential of accelerating breast cancer. Now add to the fact that you have stopped treatment, this can get too bad too fast,” says Dr John Ongech, a consultant gynaecologist.

Jackline’s first trimester was, however, uneventful despite treatment having stopped. The fifth month of pregnancy, however, turned into a nightmare, as her right breast, which had undergone surgery, burst, becoming a raw open wound. She could not, however, be put on medication because of the growing foetus.

“The wound festered and smelled so horrible. The only way to care for the wound was using water and no drugs. My husband, Jude, had to stay home to take care of me. One of the women from church came visiting and found me in such a deplorable condition that she decided to take us into her home to provide care,” says jackline.

Unbearable pain

When Jackline was six months pregnant she had had enough and told her husband that they had to terminate the pregnancy.

“The pain was unbearable, and the wound didn’t seem to be healing. The cancer seemed to be growing and I wanted to resume treatment.”

And so they booked and paid Sh15,000 for the procedure.

“When we got to the KNH procedure room and I saw the devices that were to be used, I literally ran and called my husband once I was ‘safely’ seated inside a bus headed to the CBD,” she says.

A week later, facing unbearable pain, Jackline and Jude went back to have the pregnancy terminated, the second time. This was never to be, since when they got to hospital she changed her mind, again.

“I remember asking the attendants what they thought was the worst thing that could happen to me now that I had cancer, and their answer was “death”. I also asked them what was the worst that could happen if I carried the pregnancy to term. Their answer was still “death”. I was then ready to give up my life for my baby.”

On noting her dogged determination and the excruciating pain she was in, the medics suggested that she carries the pregnancy to seven months and then she could deliver preterm and have the baby put in incubation.

Pain notwithstanding that seemed like the best choice she had. And so, it would be. At seven months, labour was induced and baby Zawadi made her entrance into the world. The distressed baby would be whisked off to the ICU immediately to begin her recovery. As for her mother, aggressive treatment would resume. Luckily, Zawadi made a good recovery and was moved to the nursery and later to the paediatric ward.

Two months later, mother and baby were back home, where new challenges awaited.

“Due to my medication, I could not breastfeed Zawadi and she had to depend on formula milk,” says Jackline.

All was going on well, until April this year when a cycle of chemotherapy and trouble struck again.

“Because I was lactating, yet the milk was not being consumed, the infected breast started having complications and I had to begin treatment once more.”

Doctors also discovered that the previous surgery had not completely removed the cancerous cells and they had to go in again. Her latest session of chemotherapy ended in October, after which Jackline was taken in for a mastectomy. She is recovering.

“This will be followed by another round of radiation to kill any remaining cancerous cells. I need close to ShI million for that. I have Sh450,000 already, thanks to support from well-wishers after I was featured on comedian MC Jessy’s show. I am hopeful that it will work out, and I will be here for my baby and husband,” she says.

This may have worked out for Jackie, but doctors caution that hers was a big risk they would not encourage because of the potential for fast spread of cancer cells, a complication that would mean she would be on lifelong treatment, or just die.

“Also, pregnancy while with cancer has been linked with a likelihood of recurrence of the cancer,” says Dr Ongech.

As Jackline cradles her baby, with a smile, as the interview comes to a close, it is clear that it was worth the risk.

“My baby was the best choice I made. It will be fine.”

by STandardmedia.co.ke


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