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Silent killer that surrounds us, but gets no attention



In December 2018, Moses Musimbi, 52, made frantic calls to his neighbours to come and save him. He was hiding from his 24-year-old son who was holding a knife, threatening to kill the whole family.

The days preceding the event had been marked by intense prayer and trips to the police station. His son had been provoked by a neighbour into a fight, leading to serious injuries. He had been an ‘erratic child’ who always got into trouble.

The signs started when he was in high school. Mood swings, poor grades and at Form Three, he got expelled for experimenting with drugs.

“We caned him, got the chief involved and took him to stay with his uncle in the village because we thought his behaviour was from peer pressure,” says Musimbi.

It was until that day, while hiding under the bed, that it dawned on him that his son was sick. With the help of friends, they tied him with ropes and took him to the police station where he was placed in the cells for two days before he was referred to a doctor who diagnosed him with schizoaffective disorder; a mental condition that makes people detach from reality and affects their mood. “When the doctor explained, we realised our son was suffering. We had beaten him, denied him food and compared him with his siblings. We did not know,” says Musimbi.

As the World Mental Health Day is marked today, psychiatrists say there are many such cases that go undiagnosed and the victims are subjected to inhumane treatment. This year’s theme campaigns for increased investment in mental health infrastructure. In Kenya, only 0.01 per cent of the total expenditure is invested in mental health.

A report released in July by the National Task Force on Mental Health paints a grim picture, saying in a family of five, there is a high possibility that one of them has a mental illness. The report further states that 30 per cent of people currently admitted in hospitals have a mental illness. “It is overwhelming. Only 14 counties have functioning mental health units,” says Dr Syengo Mutisya, consultant psychiatrist who is part of the task force.

The task force was mandated by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Madaraka Day of last year to examine and guide on a solution to the increased suicides and violence that were being reported in the country.

“Depression has today become a common phenomenon and it affects persons from all walks of life and ages. I urge employers and institutions of learning to invest more time and resources in monitoring and facilitating the mental well-being of their charges,” Uhuru said while commissioning the task force.

The task force found out that most Kenyans get distressed about politics, especially in months leading to elections, and the ones who had undergone or witnessed violence in previous elections get post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Cultural beliefs

Dr Pacifica Onyancha, the acting director at the Directorate of Medical Services in the Department of Preventive and Promotive Health in the Ministry of Health, says Covid-19 has complicated the mental health situation. “There has been increased anxiety over catching the virus, depression from loss of income, and the disruption of social activities affected the mental health of many Kenyans in the Covid times,” says Dr Onyancha.

She says most insurance companies do not cover people with mental illnesses due to the stigma the disease carries based on cultural beliefs. She says substance abuse is a common manifestation of mental illness in Kenya, yet most medics and society treat it as a self-inflicted condition.

The task force recommends formation of a Mental Health and Happiness Commission that will not only address treatment of mental health but also monitor the happiness index in the country. They also want suicide to be decriminalised. The latest global happiness index shows that Kenya trails at the bottom when it comes to happiness.

Psychatrists now want the government to increase funding for improving mental health. Dr Syengo says most people diagnosed with mental disorders fail to adhere to medication because they are too expensive and cheaper versions have side effects.



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Death of festivals dims Lamu hope to revive ailing tourism



Maulid. Food and Expo. Art, yoga and kite festivals. These are just a few of a slew of art and culture experiences that Lamu County used to dish out to the world and which boosted its tourism profile.

Lamu Old Town, also known as “the island of festivals”, had a splendid array of events and festivals ranging from Eid-Ul-Adhar to the Lamu Fishing Competition, Lamu Art Festival, The Lamu Cultural Festival, Lamu Yoga Festival, the Kite Festival, Shella Hat Contest and the Lamu Painters Festival.

But these events were put on the back burner as the tourism sector took a nosedive.

Coming on the backdrop of the Mpeketoni terror attacks in 2014 that also hit tourism hard, hospitality industry players say the vital sector is in the doldrums and want the festivals reinstated. Speaking during a forum in Lamu at the weekend, hoteliers and other players questioned why the county government has not been keen in reviving the events.

Hotelier Salim Abubakar said the county’s tourism sector was on the decline after the festivals were lifted. He urged Governor Fahim Twaha to restore the events and revive the sector.

“All the festivals that were introduced in the calendar of events are crucial. They served to attract visitors, both domestic and international, to Lamu. We need them back so that the tourism sector can be improved,” he said.

Marketing strategy

Former Lamu Tourism Association (LTA) deputy chairman Ghalib Alwy said the body, in partnership with the county tourism office started the festivals to attract more tourists. Mr Alwy said it is important that the events are retained.

“We launched those events as a marketing strategy for Lamu tourism. Through them, we were able to attract tourists from Kenya, East Africa and the world. This is after the terrorism attacks led to an almost 90 percent decline of the sector. It’s only through the festivals that tourists got the confidence to visit Lamu again. The events must be reinstated,” said Mr Alwy. Mr Mohamed Hassan noted that local tourism was still doing badly, attributing the situation to a section of foreign countries that are still having active travel advisories against their citizens visiting Lamu.

“The travel advisories still play a big role in scaring away tourists. We want as many festivals as possible as they have the ability to ensure the tourism climbs back on its feet,” said Mr Hassan.

Some of the festivals known and which are still being celebrated by many in Lamu includes the annual Lamu Cultural Festival that is marked between November and December, the Maulid Festival marked every January, New Year’s Dhow Race marked on January 1 and Eid Ul-Fitr marked every July.

The festivals are said to attract more than 30,000 visitors from around the world.


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Concrete slum? Why Pipeline residents cover wet clothes with plastic bags



Though the Government banned plastics a few years ago, residents of Pipeline are not about to let go of them.

Plastics come in handy to those living in flats whenever they air their clothes out to dry. They use plastic covers to protect their clothes from dust or water dripping from the upper floors.

Most of the flats are up to seventh or eighth floor, each house built with a balcony, where one can tie a clothes line. During dry spells, the place is so dusty that hanging clothes without a plastic cover is a waste of time. They gather so much dust and end up looking unwashed.

It is for this reason that almost every storeyed building here has plastic covers covering clothesline. This might look strange to an outsider but for residents it is a normal occurrence.  Enock Mutua, a caretaker in one of the flats, said the practice is common and that tenants do it to keep their clothes clean.

“Here, there are flats of up to eight floors and people wash at different times. Some people have clothes that shed colour, others do not properly wring out excess water from the clothes and if you do not cover your clothes, you might find them ruined or wet long after you washed them,” said Mutua.

He added that when there are new apartments to be occupied, prospective tenants run for the top floors.

Love for top floors

“One is never sure unless you live in the top most floor. Some of the buildings have space on the roof tops for tenants to air clothes,” said Mutua.

He further said that many choose to put up with the “small problems” because houses are affordable.

“Most of the houses here are single rooms, bedsitters and one bedroom which range from Sh5,000 to Sh9,000,” said Mutua.

Derrick Chenge, a resident of Pipeline, said he would rather cover his clothes even if they stayed on the clothes line for three days than leave them uncovered to come and find them ruined.

“Have you seen the dust that is around here? I cannot allow it to go to my clothes, especially the white ones. I cover them all the time,” Chenge said.

He added that they were forced to do this because of insensitive neighbours who do not care whether others have clothes outside.

“The person who stays above you will not wait for your clothes to dry and ask you to remove them. It is up to you to protect your clothes,” Chenge said.


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Fear after Mombasa school principal dies from Covid-19



The principal of Tononoka Secondary School in Mombasa where 11 teachers tested positive for Covid-19 has died, county education officials have said.

County Education Chief Officer John Musuve said Mohamed Khamis (pictured) died at the Mombasa Hospital where he was receiving treatment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Multiple sources revealed that Khamis was one of the 11 teachers who were infected with the virus at the school. We could not, however, independently verify whether he succumbed to Covid-19.

“Yes, I can confirm that Khamis has died. I cannot tell you whether he was one of the teachers infected with the virus,” said Musuve.

Reports from the hospital indicate that Khamis was admitted at the ICU after he developed breathing complications immediately after he was rushed to the hospital on October 15.

Last week, Mombasa County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo said 11 teachers from Tononoka Secondary School and four at Star of the Sea Girls High School had tested positive for Covid-19.

The two schools, located within the Mombasa Central Business District, remained closed.

Unconfirmed reports said that a teacher at the third school in Mombasa has been taken ill with Covid-19-related symptoms and is currently in the ICU at the Coast Provincial General Hospital.

Standard Digital has established that some students in the two schools have also contracted the virus.

“I can confirm that at Star of the Sea Girls High School, four teachers turned positive. More samples from staff members had been taken and results are yet to come out,” Kitiyo said last week.

He added: “At Tononoka Secondary School, the number was a bit high, with 11 cases confirmed,” he said, adding that the two institutions had been closed for two weeks.

Parents expressed anger over the turn of events and asked the government to carry out mandatory testing for all the students and teachers before they re-open the schools.

Khamis was scheduled to be buried at Kikowani cemetery this evening.

During the Mashujaa Day celebrations, Governor Hassan Ali Joho lamented over rising infections in Mombasa amid fear that the county was experiencing a second wave of the virus.

“We are seeing a spiral effect in new infections, resulting in all emergency beds being taken up by people who have turned positive,” Kitiyo said.


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October 2020