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Parents marrying off 12-year-olds for monetary gain

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Recent incidents in Nyanza region bring to the fore an emerging social concern about the safety of children at home after schools were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It threatens to reverse gains made in the protection of children in Kenya.

Recently, a pastor was arrested while officiating a marriage between his Standard Seven daughter and a 23-year-old in Kuria West Sub-county, Migori County.

Infuriated locals who got wind of the happenings at a local church in Motemorabu village, alerted authorities who arrested the pair and their parents.

PAID DOWRY

Nation established that the bridegroom’s parents had paid dowry.

Kuria West Sub-county children’s officer Mr John Omondi said the parents had secretly camped at the bridegroom’s home after settling all the requirements.

“We intercepted the wedding midway and together with the police and local administration, arrested the parents and the young couple. They will be arraigned in Kehancha court,” Mr Omondi told Nation.

In neighbouring Migori, a 13-year-old girl was, a week ago, picked by children’s officers from her home and moved to a children’s rescue centre following a series of incidents that exposed her to child abuse.

The Class Five pupil gave birth in June following a pregnancy that reportedly resulted from a defilement. Two weeks later, she was married to a different man in Kibweri in Gwasi East location.

A week ago, Homa Bay County Coordinator for Children Affairs and Social Services Peter Kutere and the chief executive officer at Journalists for Human Rights William Khamboko accompanied other government officials to the girl’s home, where she was rescued and taken to a safe house.

EARLY MARRIAGES

Attempts to arrest the suspected defiler were futile.

The rise in teen pregnancies after schools were closed in March, has seen more girls exposed to early marriages.  Authorities are concerned, and it is for a good reason.

Migori County is among regions where the situation is grave, especially among the Kuria community the where practice is prevalent.

Numerous interventions have seen at least 200 girls rescued from the retrogressive practice in the past four months, authorities reveal.

“It is a difficult time for Kuria girls, especially those who want to further their education. Most of them are seeking refuge in the rescue centres.”

“It is unfortunate their parents and relatives are the ones forcing them into the outlawed act,” Mr Tobias Ogola, the director at the Universal Relief Foundation says.

MORE GIRLS

“So far, our organisation has received more than 50 girls who have run away. Every day, we keep receiving more girls,” he states.

In another incident, which occurred before schools were closed, a 12-year-old was defiled and impregnated by a neighbour who promised to marry her.

The said man even promised to send cows to the family after she delivered. The community’s custom says it is taboo to pay dowry to a pregnant wife.

Last week, the minor developed complications while delivering at a local facility in Kuria West. She was taken for Caesarean Section but died shortly after delivering her baby.

Local MCA Susan Mohabe, says she plans to pursue the matter after it emerged that parents of the deceased had already accepted five cows as bride price.

TANZANIA

The man fled to Tanzania after learning of his impending arrest.

The matter was arbitrated by the ritungi (local clan elders) who instructed the man to pay five cows ahead of the burial.

These recent incidences point to numerous cases of teenage girls being subjected to early marriages among the Kuria where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is prevalent.

It is practiced as a rite of passage and a precursor to early marriages.

Despite laws criminalizing the practice, the community has designed ways to carry out the cut to avoid arrests.

The closure of schools has aggravated the situation with parents reportedly marrying off girls as young as 12 years.

So far, at least 200 girls in Migori have been rescued from forced marriages and currently live in rescue centres set by non-governmental organisations in the region, says Mr Omondi.

RESCUE CENTRE

Many of the girls are from Ntimaru, Gwitembe, Kegonga, Koromangucha and Masangora.

According to Mr Julius Maroa, the manager of Komotobo Rescue Centre, the number of girls seeking refuge has risen since schools closed over Covid-19.

Anti-FGM campaigners have also stepped up efforts to sensitise residents against the cut.

Mabera Sub-county Deputy Commissioner Timothy Tirop, notes that most of the affected girls are hard to trace as they are married off to relatives in neighbouring Tanzania.

A 2018 baseline survey conducted by Unicef on child marriages, teenage pregnancy and FGM revealed that 35 per cent of girls from marginalised communities were getting married at a tender age.

The survey revealed that some common reasons for practicing child marriage as personal choice of the affected girls themselves, better bride prices, social pressures and retrogressive cultural practices.

A report by Plan International further indicates that Kenya has one of the highest child marriage prevalence in the world, estimated at 25 to 30 per cent.

TEEN PREGNANCY

In Kakamega County, Bishop Rashid Nanjira of the Christian Warrior Prayer ministries has launched a campaign against teenage pregnancies and early marriages.

“Most girls of between 12 and 17 years have been impregnated in the area mostly by boda boda riders,” he states.

According to Rev Nanjira, many parents opt to marry off their daughters for monetary gains.

He adds that parents agree to out-of-court settlement, encouraging a miscarriage of justice. He now wants Parliament to enact prohibitive laws that will deal with the offenders.

According to the clergy, most girls are lured into sex by men who provide them with basic necessities such as sanitary pads and soap because their parents cannot afford.

“We must come together as stakeholders to end this vice because the pregnancies become a burden to the poor families who are forced to provide for the new-born because the girls are either abandoned after conceiving or ostracized and disowned by the person  responsible for the pregnancy,” he states.

Bishop Nanjira has teamed up with other pastors to offer sex education to the residents.

by nation.co.ke

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Health

Kenyans in US grapple with Covid-19 woes

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His conspicuous Kenyan name, Kariuki, is what gave him out and attracted the attention of a handful of compatriots working at the Philadelphia international airport.

Recently, staff at the airport woke up to news that scores of homeless people had been rounded up by the airport police and the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Among them was Kariuki (first name withheld for privacy reasons), a Days later, the Nation located Mr Kariuki in a shelter for homeless people on Island Avenue in South Philadelphia.

Mr Kariuki, originally from Nakuru County in Kenya’s Rift Valley, came to the US as an undergrad student at Temple university in Philadelphia five years ago.

“My mom, a hawker in Nakuru, raised the initial $10,000 for my tuition and that could only last me a semester and a half. Fortunately, I got a part-time job at the library in college but I still had to work at a local grocery store in the evenings and play drums for my church on Sundays where I was paid $100 every Sunday. Things were okay until Covid-19,” said Mr Kariuki.

A combination of photos of counsellor and clinical consultant Abel Oriri, who is based in Cleveland, Ohio; Geoffrey Chepkwony, who died in August in Texas, US; and David Bulindah, a clinical counsellor based in Seattle, Washington.

When, towards the end of March, the state of Pennsylvania shut down everything including education institutions, hotels and shops — and restricted movement, his world came tumbling down.

“My roommate, in whose name our apartment was registered cancelled the lease and returned to Memphis, Tennessee to his family. For almost three months, I lived in my car. It was hard to find food. The nights were cold. I started developing regular panic attacks that left me feeling like I was going crazy!” he said.

So bad were the panic attacks that police found him at the busy intersection between Island Avenue and Lindberg shouting at motorists and trying to stop them.

“I cannot remember doing this,” he says, although he describes himself at the time as “stressed, depressed and contemplating suicide”.

Psychiatric help

One day, he woke up in some psychiatric facility in West Chester and was told he had been there for three weeks.

“I was totally confused, and heavily sedated. I had nowhere to go but at least I knew I had to leave that place,” he says

Mr Kariuki finally went to the airport because one of his classmates was working at an eatery that had remained open. His friend would occasionally give him a fresh meal and, at least at the airport, he’d enjoy heating during spring and cold air in summer. That was where the authorities found him and other homeless people who they took to shelters.

Mr Kariuki’s story is unfortunately now just one of the many familiar stories of Kenyans living abroad — made worse by the pandemic.

“It’s of course true to say that Covid-19 has led to a significant increase and demand for mental health intervention due to anxiety and depression. In fact, recent research indicates that more than 53 per cent of adults in the US have reported that their mental health had negatively been impacted directly,” said Kenyan-born counsellor and clinical consultant, Abel Oriri based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Recently, Kenyans in Houston, Texas, were shocked by the death of Geoffrey Chepkwony, who is thought to have committed suicide after his body was found on the streets. He was said to have been struggling with mental health problems. The Kenyan community in the US, led by those in Texas, has been raising the money needed to ship his remains home following a passionate appeal from his mother in Kenya.

Another high-profile case is that of the first Kenyan-born National Football League player, Daniel Adongo, who later fell from grace. His worrying state was depicted in a video clip widely shared online. His family later said they had sought help for him. Coronavirus seems to have exacerbated social and health issues like homelessness, depression and domestic violence, among others.

Support groups

Mr Oriri, who is also a pastor, says most of his clients now describe feelings of depression, anxiety, worry, stress, loneliness, poor appetite, suicidal thoughts and isolation.

“Many report difficulties sleeping, eating, increased alcohol consumption and substance use. Worsening chronic conditions from worry, depression, and stress over Covid-19.

The anger management and domestic violence groups that I have been providing for more than 20 years have surged one hundred percent in enrollment since the pandemic began,” he said in a recent interview.

David Bulindah, a Kenyan Pastoral and Clinical Counsellor based in Seattle, Washington, said the usually structured life of Kenyans in the US was recently disrupted without warning by the coronavirus.

“Most people could not leave their job and or could not go to their second job. For someone who had been enjoying consistent income to suddenly lose all that, stress, anxiety and depression thus kicks in”. he said.

Mr. Bulindah says that the Kenyan community will only deal with these issues if it opens up and discusses mental health and homelessness candidly without pre-judging those affected.

“People should know that it’s okay to lose a job and it’s okay to experience mental health problems. Those affected should not isolate themselves rather, reach out for help,” he said.

By nation.co.ke

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Lifestyle

Dennis Onsarigo in mourning

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Former KTN investigative Journalist Dennis Onsarigo is mourning the sudden demise of his father.

Onsarigo, who works as the Director of Communication in Taita Taveta County, shared the sad news via a tweet on his official Twitter account that enjoys a following over 641K followers.

“I just lost my dad” announced Dennis Onsarigo.

Despite, sharing the sad news to the public, Onsarigo did not reveal the cause of his father’s death.

Dennis Onsarigo Dad

Condolences message form KOT

Following the announcement, Kenyans On Twitter (KOT) joined conversation sending in their condolences messages to Onsarigo and his family.

Martin Wachira @Martowachira “@Donsarigo Polse sana . May God comfort and give you and your family strength during this difficult time”

The Chief ‘Pole sana Denis. May God give you and your family strength during this difficult time”

Julie Gichuru ‘@Donsarigo Poleni sana Dennis. My deepest condolences. Wishing you all strength during this difficult time. May he rest in peace Folded handsFolded handsFolded hands”.

Kirigo Ng’arua ‘@Donsarigo Deepest condolences to you and your family. Poleni”

John-Allan Namu “@Donsarigo Pole Sana Dennis. May God rest his soul in peace”

Leon Lidigu “@Donsarigo Pole sana big bro”

Sophia Wanuna “@Donsarigo Pole sana ndugu … upholding you & your family in prayer”

Akisa Wandera “@Donsarigo Oh noooCrying faceCrying face I’m so sorry Dennis”

Gladys Gachanja “@Donsarigo My condolences Dennis….poleni sana”

Dennis Itumbi, HSC “@Donsarigo Pole sana. God rest Dad in eternity. I pray for comfort and peace to you and Family”

Millicent Omanga “@Donsarigo Pole sana brother”

By pulse live.co.ke

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Health

KNH strike claims its first victim

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A man died at the parking lot of Kenya’s largest referral hospital where a strike by 5,000 workers paralysed operations on Monday.

The boda boda rider was taken to the hospital by his friends following an accident.

But the management of the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) insisted the patient was in a critical state and that his death was not due to negligence.

Dr Stanley Kamau, a board member at KNH, said the hospital and staff were not to blame for the death.

The strike disrupted services at the hospital and left patients unattended. The striking employees are protesting a delay to effect a pay rise totaling Sh601 million.

Some families were forced to move unattended patients from the hospital as members of the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions and Hospital Workers (Kudheiha), the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) commenced their strike.

Workers’ demands

The workers are demanding implementation of resolutions from the State Corporation Advisory Committee, which upgraded the hospital’s parastatal status from 3C to 7A in 2012.

Following the reclassification, all KNH staff were to benefit from enhanced pay but it has never been effected.

Some workers went on strike late last year, prompting a return-to-work formula with management to end the boycott.

But the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has said the formula is not a basis for demanding a review of remuneration, arguing it’s not fiscally sustainable and will distort the salary structure in the sector.

SRC has asked the referral to retain the current pay structure as it awaits a job evaluation that will inform the remuneration review cycle for 2021/22 to 2014/25.

KNUN Secretary-General Seth Panyako said members were not interested in the job evaluation and wanted their salaries adjusted as the matter had been approved by Parliament.

“We want SRC to write to the CEO giving authorisation for payment because we know the money is there. We will not go back to work until we get the money,” Mr Panyako stated.

SRC the ‘obstacle’

KMPDU’s acting Secretary-General Chibanzi Mwachonda claims SRC is the only obstacle and it is frustrating health workers in the public sector.

The hospital’s chief executive officer in a letter to SRC yesterday said KNH will ensure the Sh601 million budgeted for in the 2020/21 financial year is paid in October.

In a letter dated February 12, 2013, to then Finance Principal Secretary, KNH detailed the breakdown of the salaries from the CEO to the lowest Job Group K16/17.

The lowest basic salary for the hospital CEO was set at Sh400,000, while the maximum had been capped at Sh560,000. House allowance was to be between Sh60,000 and Sh80,000.

While the CEO’s basic salary was settled at Sh400,000, that of the lowest worker was set at Sh17, 535.

by nation.co.ke

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