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Untold sacrifices of a Covid-19 nurse



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Many can argue that the long and strenuous routine and hours are part of what Francisca Akinyi knew she was getting into when she joined the nursing profession.

Ms Akinyi had undergone the training and even religiously developed herself professionally. She was sure of handling any issue.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has taken her aback. The disease has come with new challenges, which prompted the nurse to take a refresher course.

There was no Covid-19 disease in Kenya three months ago and Ms Akinyi, a senior nursing officer at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), was working at the Infectious Disease Unit.

Exactly a year after taking up the job, another posting came. She was told to join the team that was to manage Covid-19 patients.

This group was to be housed at Mbagathi Hospital, the designated primary isolation centre.

The weight of the country’s coronavirus preparedness was placed on the shoulders of these 13 other nurses and six doctors.

“The team is big enough to handle the cases. As in my previous postings, the routine remains the same. The only difference is that with the curfew, the daytime shift ends at 4.30pm,” she says.

The health workers on the frontline the world over have been showered with accolades and it is easy to see why.

The doctors work from 8am to 8pm, with one per shift. The four nurses on day shift work from 8am to 4pm while a night shift begins at 4pm and ends at 8am.

The group in the latter shift is made up of three nurses. Most team members barely had time to prepare following the presidential directive to have the Mbagathi isolation centre set up immediately after the first case was reported.

“Like the rest of the people, we were afraid of getting into the world of the unknown, but based on the earlier Sars training, we were ready,” she says.

Like Covid-19, Sars was a contagious and fatal respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus.

It emerged in China in 2002 and spread quickly around the world. Fortunately, it was quickly contained.

Ms Akinyi says the similarities between Covid-19 and Sars gave many health workers an idea of what they were about to face.

From the time the first case was reported in Kenya three weeks ago, Ms Akinyi has been on 10-hour shifts.

She found herself taking care of the first two patients, who have since recovered.

Her journey as a nurse at KNH started 21 years ago, and she worked in the oncology section and the isolation ward for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) patients.

In March 2019, she was moved from the MDR-TB ward to the relatively new Infectious Disease Unit (IDU).

The 11-bed unit was built during the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Before taking up the current assignment, Ms Akinyi consulted her children, just as she did when she went to the IDU.

“I inform them about every sensitive assignment I am about to undertake, just in case something happens to me. When Covid-19 came, I prepared and reassured them that all would be fine,” the mother of two says.

Ms Akinyi recounts the reservations her eldest daughter had.

For the first time, Ms Akinyi had to ensure physical distance at work and at home. One of her children has a condition that makes her easily prone to infections.

“I asked her to go to her sister’s place as we weighed the situation. A week later, she was back. That meant decontamination at the hospital and home to reduce the chances of infection,” she says.

The nurse had to ban her daughter from her bedroom. She also must clean and disinfect shared facilities like the bathroom.

The utensils must be thoroughly cleaned and her laundry is done separately.

“We no longer sit at the dining table to share a meal. When my daughter cooks; she places food outside my bedroom. After eating, I place the dishes in a bucket with a disinfectant. We cannot take any chances,” Ms Akinyi says.

The workers fighting the virus commute to and from hospital daily.

Some use matatus and taxis. For that reason, the medics must ensure they are not infected or carrying the virus on their clothes.

“Many people get infected during doffing — after handling a patient — because they may not remove their protective gear properly,” Ms Akinyi says.

While attending to patients, health workers need overalls that cover them properly. Gumboots and goggles or face shields are decontaminated for reuse.

“We may find ourselves in the suit for several hours, depending on the number of patients and their individual needs,” she says.

To enhance safety, the medics synchronise their activities to reduce movement in and out of a bed area. They provide food, drugs and do their regular observations — temperature, blood pressure checks — at the same time.

As the number of patients increases, there are growing calls to minimise contamination among staff.


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Go Green na Optiven



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It is the responsibility of everyone to tender and care for the planet for better and healthier future generations.
We call upon you to join any of these categories:
1. Those who are more environmentally friendly
2. Those who are ecologically responsible in both their decision making and lifestyles
3. Those who protect environment
4. Those who protect and sustain the natural resources in their area of business
5. Those who help to conserve resources like water, air and vegetation
6. Those who produce eco-friendly products, thus preventing pollution of our air, water and land
7. Those who can prove that they have been using Green Energy/clean energy such as solar power or if using conventional energy; they are using eco-friendly bulbs and that save energy.
How can each play a role this is a highlight of just but a few but you can  put your   role that  you are doing  to promote the  green agenda
1. Builders/Engineers/Architects/Interiors designers
i. Use of solar energy/ Use of solar panels
ii. Use of Energy saving bulbs, florescent tubes
iii. Use of organic paints, light friendly windows
iv. Use of Eco-friendly toilets
v. Harvesting of rain water from roof tops, use roofs that are Eco-friendly, ensure that water does not go to waste
vi. Proof of reduction of water bills as a result of going green
vii. Water recycling technologies like Bio digester
viii. Those whose provide green buildings, Eco-friendly homes
2. Farming, gardening, landscaping experts
i. Use of drip or sprinkler on not flooding water while gardening or farming
ii. Use of organic pesticides
iii. Use of organic manure
iv. Those who increase forests cover
3. Health businesses, Schools, Hospitals
i. Those providing natural skin care products & not petroleum or synthetic ingredients on the products
ii. Those offering advice on going green, creating awareness of going green
iii. Those who teach children on being a friend of the earth
iv. Those who buy from ethical farmers who are known to produce organic products
4. Transport industry, drivers, delivery companies and logistics firms/organizations
i. Those who reduce carbon emissions directly or indirectly
ii. Any Awareness of climate change
iii. Any knowledge of carbon emissions and how to reduce?
5. Property Owners within Optiven Projects
i. Planting of trees in their plots
ii. Adoption of water recycling technology
iii. Establishment of Green Spaces
iv. Proper waste disposal
6. SMEs
i. Those who recycle waste
ii. Those manufacturing from the recycled materials
iii. Those who take proper care of electronic wastes
iv. Tech companies that have a green policy on disposal of electric waste
v. SMEs that can prove awareness of global warming
7. Families
i. Those who adopt any of the going green initiative say family tree planting, planting a tree during birthday instead of having a birthday cake or doing both
ii. With children who are aware of climate change and also alive to ways of preventing in preventing it
iii. Families that are involved in separation of different form of waste and or engaged in any form of recycling
8. Hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, entertainment joins
i. Provision of organic food to customers
ii. Support of local farmers who do organic farming
iii. Awareness of climate change and its risks to humanity
9. Decision makers- checking the green component in your venture
i. Any policy decisions on going green
ii. Awareness on global warming
iii. Any knowledge of implementation of United Nations Development Goals
10. Children: If you are a child who is school going or otherwise and you have started being sensitive to the planet by doing conservation activities
11. Others: If you  believe that you are a friend of the planet, let us know
#GoingGreen=Healthy Families
George Wachiuri
Optiven Foundation

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VIDEO: Optiven CEO opens up about growing up in abject poverty, doing laundry for fellow students



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George Wachiuri, the CEO of Optiven Limited, has opened up about a side of him few people know about. Despite having built a multi-billion Shilling Real Estate Company and becoming one of the most recognisable names in the field, Wachiuri has remained a humble servant, who says he views his customers as associates and greatly respects and values his work mates. 

In an interview with Jeremy Damaris of Kenya Diaspora Media, he tells of how he struggled, lost money and friends, before rebounding “by the grace of God.”

A Certified Public Accountant – CPA (K) and is a former Lecturer at Daystar University, his entrepreneurial spirit developed early, and was awarded the Entreprenuer of the year 1997 by the University of Nairobi.

He is currently a PhD candidate at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

He holds a Masters’s degree in Business Administration (University of Nairobi), and a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing option) Degree from University of Nairobi.

Watch as he tells his amazing story in Gīkūyū

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‘Kikambala hotel bombing in 2002 changed our lives’



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The scars on Mercy Neema Mwagambo’s body are a stark reminder of what happened at Paradise Beach Hotel in Kikambala 18 years ago.

On November 28, 2002, a two-pronged terrorist attack hit an Israeli-owned hotel but missed a plane belonging to Arkia Airlines.

A vehicle crashed through a barrier outside the hotel on the Kilifi-Mombasa highway and blew up, killing 17 people and injuring 80 others.

Every year today, Neema and 13 victims of the attack and their families converge at the deserted hotel to pray for the souls of their departed relatives.

However, today could be the last annual ritual as the owner has put the hotel for sale.

Annual ritual

For Neema and other victims, it’s not clear if the prospective buyer would allow them to continue with this annual ritual.

It is an attack that left villages of Musumarini in Kilifi County destitute, negatively affected Israelis’ investments at the Coast and damaged the tourism sector.

“I am trying to sell this property even at a throwaway price,” said Yehuda Sulami, an Israeli, on phone from Tel Aviv, although he did not reveal the price.

Sulami claims that after the attack, there were efforts to push him out of business.

The former special forces officer said he had no money to compensate victims of the attack.

“I’ve faced an avalanche of litigation on compensation. There was no insurance cover on terrorism,” said Sulami.

It is the first time has spoken publicly on the matter.

He said while he sympathised with those who lost their loved ones or suffered injuries, he lost his lifetime investment and close friends and “there was no one to comfort me.”

Among the 17 who perished were 14 Kenyans and three Israelis. The deserted hotel is arguably the only remaining mark of Israel investment in Coast.

Prior to the attack, over 100,000 tourists from Israel had made Mombasa and Kenyan Coast their second home away from home.

“Arkia Airline used to bring in between 250-270 guests per flight. It had operated Mombasa route for close to seven years before the attempted missile attack,” said Sulami.

After the attack, the airline stopped flying the route and Israel investments at the Coast started dwindling.

Sulami claimed that what followed was a number of litigation and attempts to force them to close down the hotel.

“We became the target yet the Kenyan government had promised to assist the affected persons,” said Sulami, without providing any evidence of the alleged persecution.

The victims of the attack narrated to the Saturday Standard on how they were neglected by the Government and the owner of the hotel.

For instance, Neema cannot walk as her legs were seriously injured. She was working at the front office at the hotel.

On that fateful day, she was helping a guest check in as her colleagues were overwhelmed by the number of tourists.

“Had I remained inside the hotel at my work station, may be I would not have been injured this way,” said Neema.

November is a peak season for the tourism sector in Coast. On that day, as a group of 230 guests were leaving the hotel, another 250 tourists were checking in. All the guests were Israelis.

“I reported early for duty on that fateful day and was looking forward to a rather busy day since we had huge check in and check out for guests,” she said in an interview.

At the gate, a troupe of Girima dancers were doing their jig to bid goodbye to outgoing guests and welcome the incoming ones.

Most of the incoming tourists had already been ushered in to the waiting lounge at the reception but a small group had joined the traditional dancers.

“What followed was a huge bang followed by fire all over the Makuti-thatched hotel,” Neema said, adding that she found herself on the ground.

Neema could not walk so she crawled to the swimming pool. She had suffered serious burns allover her body and decided to jump into the swimming pool to cool herself.

“I was taken to hospital in Mombasa and later airlifted by a military aircraft to Israel for specialised treatment at Jerusalem Hospital. I spent four weeks receiving treatment for my broken legs and burnt face and back,” she said.

The Kikambala bombing incident also robbed the family of Mufidha Mohamed of its breadwinner, Wildred Oyaro Owuor, who used to operate a taxi business at the hotel.

“My husband suffered a ruptured stomach. He died 21 days after he was admitted at Pandya Hospital,” Mufidha says. She was breastfeeding Zaki, their last born now 18 years, when the attack happened.

She said with the death of her husband, she was left as the sole breadwinner to fend for her five children.

“It has not been easy for us all. I have tried to venture into business with very little success,” she said.

Today Mufidha, her children and a few other survivors will converge at the blast site to hold prayers and commemorate those who died.

“Today we shall go to the hotel which has now closed down to hold prayers. It is a ritual I’ll do until I meet him in the next life,” says Mufidha.

Dr Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (Kahc) Coast branch executive officer, says the events of the fateful day have had a long impact on Kenyan tourism.

Travel advisories

Dr Ikwaye says it is after the Kikambala bombing that key foreign tourists source markets started issuing travel advisories against Mombasa and the Coast region.

“This was the start of a very bad beginning for Kenyan tourism,” Ikwaye said.

He explained the Kikambala bombing marked the first time the industry experienced serious external shocks and has never fully recovered.

“Neighbouring nations too and the world experienced our pain years after we had suffered and today terrorism has been recognised as a threat not just synonmous with Kenya, but the world over,” he said.

Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo said it is unfortunate that no compensation was made to those who suffered the brunt of the terror attack.

“Both the national and county governments should be compelled to assist surviving families. This will not take away completely the suffering they have endured but will offer some sort of comfort to those affected,” said Justice (rtd) Madzayo.


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