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Thursday, January 25th, 2018

 

Education gets Sh431 billion in new Treasury budget proposals

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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Education will get the lion’s share of this year’s budgetary allocations, according to proposals by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich.

The sector will have its funding increased by Sh56.5 billion to about Sh431 billion, according to the Draft Budget Policy Statement prepared by the Treasury. Out of this, basic education will get Sh31.8 billion to cater for the Universal Primary Education and the Free Day Secondary school programme.

Mr Rotich says in the proposed allocations that the total budget is projected at about Sh2 trillion, with the county governments getting Sh315.3 billion and the three arms of the national government sharing the rest: the Executive (Sh1.7 trillion), Parliament (Sh31.8 billion) and the Judiciary (Sh17.8 billion).

However, the Sh2 trillion estimate excludes the consolidated fund budget, which stood at Sh703 billion as per Treasury estimates published in January last year (2017).

SUBMIT VIEWS

The policy statement is currently the subject of discussions in Nairobi with the public and interested parties expected to submit their views at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.

The final policy statement is by law supposed to be submitted to Parliament by February 15, meaning it will be among the first things MPs will consider when they resume sittings in mid-February.

The chairman of the National Assembly’s Budget Committee Kimani Ichung’wah told the ministries to use what is available as the country tries to reduce the budget deficit.

He also criticized Treasury for replicating targets over the years without any achievements.

“It is disappointing to note that some of the targets and outputs in the budget documents seem not to mean anything since they are continuously repeated as key deliverables over the years but have never been achieved,” he said.

MAJOR BENEFICIARIES

He added: “My Committee and the House expect to see targets and outputs that are tangible and quantifiable as this will form the basis of our approval of any allocation to a programme.”

Among the other major beneficiaries of the proposed increases in allocations is the Treasury, whose budget will increase by Sh20 billion.

Other beneficiaries are teachers, whose employer, the Teachers Service Commission, will its budget raised by Sh16.2 billion, while funding for social protection under the social safety net, which gives cash to the elderly will be increased by Sh8 billion.

The Information, Communication and Technology department is also among the big gainers with its allocation going up by Sh11.4 billion.

Others are the Interior Department, whose budget will go up by Sh6.3 billion and the Correctional Services, whose funds will be raised by Sh5.2 billion.

The Planning and Statistics Department could also see its allocation increase by Sh5.4 billion to Sh48.6 billion.

There are no significant increases in funding for the departments and ministries expected to deliver President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four objectives — growing the manufacturing sector, food security, Universal Health Coverage and 500,000 new homes by 2022.

From the statement,  plans for the Big Four will start with projects such as the Special Economic Zones in Naivasha or Dongo Kundu and the completion of Machakos Leather Park.

With the Universal Health Care plan, for example, Treasury says the focus will be on reconfiguring the National Hospital Insurance Fund and reforming the governance of private insurance companies.

This is supposed to culminate with an increase in the number of Kenyans under the National Hospital Insurance Fund from 16.5 million to 25.74 million. This will involve using the 37,000 banking sector agents, four banks, three mobile phone companies and getting 100,000 community health workers to recruit 20 households each.

LIMITED FINANCES

Mr Rotich says in the statement that because of the government’s limited finances, a lot of the projects will be done in collaboration with the private sector.

“In this respect, we shall be creating a High Speed Public Private Partnership (PPP) Unit to attract and engage the private sector on implementation of most of the projects under the Big Four Plan,” he says.

Treasury says it projects revenues collected to reach Sh1.8 trillion from the Sh1.6 trillion targeted in the current financial year.

The gap in financing is Sh588.5 billion and  it will be plugged by borrowing Sh214.7 billion from outside the country, Sh369.6 billion from domestic sources and Sh4.2 billion from other domestic sources.


Report: As the wealthy grow richer, the poor get poorer

By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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As some of the richest and most powerful people in the world gather in Davos, Switzerland for this year’s World Economic Forum, campaigners are calling for an end to existing economic systems that have seen the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

The latest Oxfam World Inequality Report indicates that 82 per cent of all wealth created in 2017 went to just one per cent of the world’s most elite population, while the poorest half of the population received nothing.

The report also states that the wealth of billionaires has grown six times faster than that of the ordinary, and that a new billionaire was minted every two days between March 2016 and March 2017.

“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy, but a symptom of a failing economic system,” Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima said in a statement, adding that “the people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors”.

SCHOOL FEES

Experts say the wealth that has created newly-minted billionaires is enough to end global extreme poverty seven times over for people like Stephen Onyango, a 32-year-old father of four who lives in Kibera, surrounded by a biting poverty propagated by a system he says is rigged against him.

He only made Sh5,000 in December last year from his cereals business, meaning his family was only able to survive because his wife grows subsistence crops on their one-acre farm in their rural home, therefore helping to supplement Onyango’s income.

“Business was very bad in December, maybe because of the political environment, so I was not able to make much sales,” he says. “Without the income from the farm, we would never have been able to pay school fees or feed and clothe our children. Life has always been hard, but it has seemingly gotten worse lately.”

He is pessimistic about whether January might give him better returns than December because, without capital to boost his small business, he has no way to grow the revenue.

“I work hard but everything in this society runs on money. You have to have money to make money, so when you are poor like me, your status seems unlikely to change.”

FAT SALARIES

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the spectacularly wealthy, whose fat salaries regularly put them on the list of best paid executives. Kenya’s highest earning chief executive, according to media reports, made Sh375 million last year, and many other business leaders earn more than Sh100 million annually.

The pay disparity between the rich and the poor is even more striking when gender is factored in because women consistently earn less than men, and are usually stuck in low paid, insecure jobs. Worldwide, nine out of every ten billionaires are men.

In Kenya, even as the woman empowerment movement grows and more women take up positions of leadership and influence, the economy is still generally skewed in favour of men. For instance, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reported in its 2017 Economic Survey that there are twice as many men as women in the Kenyan workforce.

GENDER PAY GAP

In addition, men grossly outnumber women in all sectors of the economy except two — human health and social work, and as caregivers in households. These two are among the least paid jobs available.

To fight rising inequality, Oxfam is calling on governments to limit the returns of shareholders and top executives, close the gender pay gap, crackdown on tax avoidance, and increase spending on healthcare and education.

The study was released on the eve of top political and business figures meeting at a luxury Swiss ski resort for the annual World Economic Forum, which this year will focus on how to create “a shared future in a fractured world”.

Additional reporting by AFP


Heirs blocked from vast Nicholas Biwott estate

By GERALD BWISA
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By BARNABAS BII
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The High Court has issued orders barring the family of the late former Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott from accessing his assets, estimated at billions of shillings, following a suit filed by a businessman.

Justice Hilary Chemitai, sitting at Kitale, issued the temporary orders following the suit by Eldoret-based businessman Barnabas arap Kiprono demanding Sh382 million as payment for loans he allegedly advanced to the former long-serving Keiyo South MP.

“Temporary conservation orders are hereby issued to bar the family from accessing the late Biwott’s assets until the matter is heard and determined in court,” ordered Justice Chemitei.

While directing that the administrators of the estate be served with the suit notice, the judge further ordered the case referred to Eldoret since most of the suit assets are based in the town.

Mr Kiprono, through his lawyer J. K. Chesoo of Kalya and Company Advocates, has named Biwott’s widow Hannie Biwott and children Rhoda Jeruto Biwott and Johana Catherine Kiprono Biwott as the principal stakeholders in the estate.

Biwott, a powerful minister in retired President Daniel arap Moi’s government, died on July 11 last year at 77. He had interests in banking, petroleum, construction and aviation, among other sectors.

It is not clear what the money Mr Kiprono says he lent Biwott was for as he only said it was loans to the politician.

“The demise of the late Biwott has halted the payments and the recovery efforts of the money,” stated Mr Kiprono in the suit.

AWARE OF DEBT

He said the late Biwott was aware of the debt and he wants to be enlisted as one of the administrators of his estate.

“I have never recovered part of the money nor anyone else done so on my behalf and I hold no security for the money,” explained Mr Kiprono while naming the late Biwott’s widow and children as the respondents in the suit.

He cited three commercial plots in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County, and Kwanza and Namanjalala in Trans Nzoia County as among Biwott’s assets, saying they are valued at over Sh1 billion.

The family has 21 days to respond to the suit.


Hospital rape scaremongering was result of failed journalism

When journalism fails, hearsay and scaremongering take over. On Thursday last week at 11.01pm, Mildred Owiso wrote 138 words in “Buyer Beware Kenya” blog that were essentially hearsay – the report of another person’s words—that mothers who give birth at Kenyatta National Hospital are routinely raped by health workers or morticians who come to collect dead bodies.

Mildred, no doubt, believed what she wrote but it was still hearsay — information she had received from other people that could not, or had not, been substantiated. Call it a rumour. No mother had reported actual or attempted rape except in social media.

In fact, what Mildred penned was pretty innocuous by social media standards. Her main point was not the alleged raping of lactating mothers. She was apparently more concerned with “a woman dressed in a Christian regalia” who steals handbags. She ended her message by asking KNH to look into the matter. It was the media’s unquestioning reporting of her post and the reactions  – all based on hearsay –that went over the top.

“KNH is a hot spot of thieves and all kinds, from the queue to the lift, beware. Today, a woman dressed in a Christian regalia was caught, red-handed with her hands in another ladies bag,” she wrote. “Also, security is a big issue, especially for mothers who kids are in the nursery.

Apparently, they need to go breastfeed their babies after every two hours, or so. The nurseries are at the ground floor, and the mothers third floor. Today, met a lady who was nearly raped, when she had gone to breastfeed baby about 3:00 am. Only thing that save her the ordeal was her voice. She screamed her alleged attack off. Never mind, this is someone who had her twins via cesarean, barely even healed. Such vulnerable mothers need protection. Absurd! KNH, please look onto this matter.”

KNH CEO Lily Koros promptly issued a press statement saying she was “saddened by the allegations that appeared in social media today, 19th of January on raping of mothers at KNH.” She invited victims to report to the hospital’s customer care office.

When Mildred Owiso she spoke on KTN news on Saturday after her post had gathered a storm that galvanised women parliamentarians and other protesters, it became even more obvious she was peddling hearsay. In the absence of authoritative reports the hearsay became the real story, with alarming and shocking effects. In our various cultures, mothers, especially postpartum, are sacrosanct.

Anybody who violates them is public enemy number one. The hearsay acquired a life of its own. Not since the 2007/8 post-election shambles has there been a social media rumour that so many people believed.

However, the confusion created by the 138 words on Facebook could have been avoided if the mainstream media had assumed it traditional role of verification instead of merely echoing what Mildred had published in social media and the reactions that followed. The media had at least a full day since the 138 words were posted to verify the story, or question it, and publish a more reliable story as early as Saturday. That did not happen. The public had to wait for three days to read the first story that was not a mere parody of those 138 words.

To its credit, though belatedly, the Nation on Monday this week published the story “Why it’s hard to know where truth lies in KNH rape saga” by Elizabeth Merab that attempted to perform the surveillance role of the media. In all the other stories, the public was treated to a parody of social media posts and the reactions of the various players and interested parties.

Social media, it is true, has changed the way news is gathered and consumed. However, traditional journalists remain the major reliable source of news and information. This is a role they should not abdicate to citizen journalists, or whatever one may want to call people like Mildred Owiso.


Smoke in our kitchens is a really big killer

By CAROLINE TOROITICH

When, with a stroke of a pen last year, Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu banned the smoking of shisha, the decree sparked interesting but diverse opinions. Some praised the CS for wisdom; others vilified him for killing business and pleasure that the piped tobacco offered.

The most important thing is that there was debate. And rightly so. Shisha was ubiquitous in the towns. It was at the disposal of especially mid-class, who had money to smoke. To the partying youth, it epitomised status. And smoke, they did without any care about the health risks.

I followed with great interest the debates, the parodies, the directives, the cheers and the tears around the shisha ban. From the animated discourses, it was clear that shisha was a big deal. 

Yet, there is a bigger and subtler smoking problem. Its enormity and impact makes shisha looks like an angel.

DEADLY SMOKE

Our kitchens in households and institutions, especially in the rural areas and low-income dwellings in urban areas, are dens of deadly smoke. Every time a meal is prepared in these kitchens that use biomass – firewood, cow-dung, and charcoal – there is a corresponding health hazard as a result of indoor air pollution.

When carbon burns, it reacts with air either to produce carbon dioxide or in most cases due to inefficiency in combustion, deadly carbon monoxide. We have heard heart-wrenching cases of deaths as a result of carbon monoxide from charcoal. Cooking with open stoves that use firewood or paraffin is akin to inviting a health risk. Yet, this goes on without any ministerial decree to end the catastrophe. And the reason is simple: Unlike shisha, which affects the lives of the elite citizens, a demographic that is at the full glare of the media, the rural scene is different. 

The smoke in our kitchens  is linked to ailments as pneumonia, asthma, respiratory tract infections, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary disorders. It is women and children spending a lot of time in the kitchen, inhaling the smoke, who pay the biggest price. 

PREVENTABLE

Worldwide, 3 billion people are at risk of this pollution. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that 4.3 million people die annually due to indoor pollution. Here is the distribution of the causes: 12 per cent due to pneumonia; 34 per cent from stroke; 26 per from heart disease; 22 per cent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and six per centfrom lung cancer.

Indoor air pollution is preventable. But it requires concerted efforts of different stakeholders. The government must lead with funds, policies and goodwill to ensure that we tame this silent killer in the rural kitchens so that Kenya achieves its goal of 100 per cent access to clean cooking by 2030.

We should spare a thought for those rural folks. We need to pursue clean regimes such as electricity or LPG.

At the Rainforest Alliance, we are working on models to eliminate the use of wood for tea drying and alternative cooking technologies. This will not only save our forests but also cut on the deadly emissions.

Another critical area to consider is use of improved cookstoves. Improved cookstoves are fantastic energy savers and help to cut emissions because they allow for higher combustion. We also need standards for cookstoves. Such jikos must be designed in such a manner that combustion of wood is near 100 per cent. We need more education on ventilation of kitchens. This way, we shall contain the numerous complications and even deaths associated with smoke in our kitchens.


How Sh32bn investment has made Thika Road much worse

By MUTUMA MATHIU
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How is it that we spent Sh32 billion on Thika Road to make the condition of drivers, which was horrible to start with, even worse? This is the only road in Kenya where there is a jam before 6am.

Living anywhere on this road is the equivalent of living in Kariobangi South, Umoja, Komarock and other parts of deep Eastlands, a decade ago. If you have an 8am meeting, you have to leave your house at 5.45am, to be in the office by 6.30am, whereupon you sleepily stare at the rafters for an hour-and-a-half. If you leave at 6am, with overlappers and underlappers sandwiching you, there is no guarantee you will ever arrive.

The capacity of the superhighway, especially between the Muthaiga under-pass and the Survey of Kenya has been exceeded, barely seven years after the road was built. It used to be the busiest road in East and Central Africa. Today it’s probably one of the busiest in Africa, with more than 1000 vehicles passing the Pangani junction every 15 minutes during peak hours.

How in hell did we get here? I have been bothered by this for a while and in my curiosity, I came across a 2015 study by Mr Simon Kiragu Kabui, a civil engineering student at the University of Nairobi.

EXTENDED PURPOSE

For his BSc project, he did a performance analysis – an evaluation of the extent to which the road is serving the intended purpose — of Thika Road between Pangani and Junction 6 at the Survey of Kenya, a distance of 2.5km. He writes very well for an engineer and other than for his addiction to complex math, formulae and charts, his project is good reading for those who want to understand why they are spending the better part of their day drinking fumes and you can find it at http://civil.uonbi.ac.ke.sutes/default/files/cae/KABUIKABUI%20SIMON%20KIRAGU.pdf.

Five years ago, you could drive at free-flow speeds (a fancy term for a situation where you drive as if you are alone on the road) from Ruiru to Ngara. Today, you can’t move during peak times. So what happened?

First, in Kenya there is only one mode of transport: Road. We move 93 per cent of our goods and people on the road.

Secondly, all roads in Nairobi lead to Thika Road. There are 2.6 million people, or 60 per cent of the city’s population, in eastlands.

Rather than fighting the garbage on Juja Road or sitting for hours on Landhies Road, many are heading to Thika Road via the newly but crazily built – pedestrian bridges incomplete, no bus stops – Outer Ring Road. The result is a locust of cars which invade and choke Thika Road and neighbouring suburbs.

BADLY BUILT

The road is badly built. The person who built the Muthaiga/Kiambu Road junction should be whipped and required to do it again. There should be an inquiry into why the road was narrowed. Whose building was being saved? The driving on Thika Road is primitive. Some drivers are rude and have no clue how to drive or use the road. It’s lost on them that if you stick to your lane, are polite, considerate, give way and never ever overlap we can achieve higher speeds, shorter journey times and less stress.

Finally, we manage the use of highways as if we are high on muguka – we have accumulated a grenade-sized lump on our cheek, our eyes are bulging out and our brains have crashed. If our heads were working, the young engineer lists traffic management actions we could take to make things better.

One is what he calls tidal flow action. This involves opening some lanes of the less busy side of the carriageway at peak times to reverse traffic.

Two outbound lanes can be opened to inbound traffic. But if we tried that, the Mwiki matatus will try to move one on top of each, or take the other lanes as well and block the whole thing.

ROAD QUOTAS

The other is separated lanes where priority is given to busses and vehicles with multiple passengers. Parking restriction would work, too. In this case the county reduces the number of parking bays and hikes the parking fees.

A draconian one is to impose road quotas where those with even number plates and those with odd number plates are allowed into the city on alternate days. Or we could charge a lot of money for motorists to use certain sections in what is termed cordon pricing. In other words, you pay Sh300 to use Thika Road between 6am and 10am.

We will never have clear roads if more than half of the vehicles are cars with a single occupant. We have to invest in light rail and buses offering a clean, timely and secure mode of transport for city dwellers.

We must stop building infrastructure merely to chase dreams – Vision 2030 says Upper Hill is the new financial hub, so we pour all the money into roads in Upper Hill and Ngong Road –  and start investing in the convenience of our people by rebuilding Jogoo, Juja, Landhies roads and Racecourse Road and other routes that serve those 2.6 million city dwellers.

But remember, investing in roads alone does not solve the problem; it brings us to situation where we spend billions to make our situation worse. Give people cheaper, better, faster and safer alternatives and the roads will open up.


Don’t decriminalise homosexuality

By ABU AYMAN ABUSUFIAN
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Over the years, there have been subtle and covert programmes aimed at promoting and pushing for the legalisation of homosexuality in the country.

The latest development, where the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission has gone to court to seek the decriminalisation of homosexuality is the boldest by Western-funded gay lobby groups to promote homosexuality– a practice considered to be an immoral and abhorrent behaviour by the vast majority of Kenyans.

Western countries and agencies have over the years been funding pro-gay groups and pushing for the legalisation of homosexuality.

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and Tides Foundation, which are among the leading organisations that promote Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights in Third World countries are among the main financial backers of the Kenyan gay rights movement.

They are now emboldened and have headed to the courts in a bid to change the laws to have the practice legalised. Under our laws, homosexuality is considered a felony that attracts a jail sentence of 16 years. It is inconceivable that the government could even consider registering an organisation that promotes illegal practices.

The registration of the local gay rights group is akin to recognising an organisation that promotes the rights of consumers of cocaine and other hard drugs. During his visit to Kenya in 2015, former US President Barack Obama called for the recognition of gay rights, but his appeal was quickly spurned by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who described the matter as “a non-issue”.

He affirmed that Kenyans would protect their inalienable religious and cultural values and would not succumb to Western pressure to embrace practices that go against beliefs held dear by Kenyans.

To force poor Third World countries to legalise same-sex relationships, Western nations are now tying development aid to gay rights under the guise of anti-discrimination laws. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni, who had come out strongly against homosexuality was arm-twisted to relax laws as the US and other Western countries threatened to cut aid if Uganda enacted strong anti-gay legislation.

ABHORRENT BEHAVIOUR

Just over four decades ago, homosexuality was seen as an abhorrent practice around the world with many countries, including the US and several European nations, outlawing the practice.

It was largely seen as a psychiatric problem. However, a small but highly influential gay lobby succeeded in driving an agenda that the practice is not only a natural sexual orientation, but also a human right that should be legalised and promoted globally.

Many countries subsequently embraced homosexuality and some went on to enact legislation to sanction same sex marriages. Voices against LGBT have largely faced strong opposition and even sanctions by increasingly powerful gay lobby groups.

The gay agenda is now being taken right into classrooms to infuse the habit among nascent and naive minds. Unknown to many, homosexuality is covertly being pushed in Kenya under the guise of Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE), where learners are to be taught that two adults of the same sex can constitute a family, live together and raise children just like other parents.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

The premise that homosexuality is a natural sexual orientation and consensual conjugal relations by adults in their private sphere should not be subjected to interference has been used as the reason to push for legalisation. Yielding to this argument also implies that incest by consenting adults should be accepted.

Already, there are plans to push for the legalisation of incest among consenting adults.  In 2014, Germany’s national ethics council called for an end to the criminalisation of sex between siblings.

If such calls gain strength, incest, considered in all societies across the globe as an immoral, abhorrent and unacceptable practice, could be legalised.

Kenyans, majority of whom subscribe to the Christian and Islamic faiths and African religious traditions, are against this practice that contravenes teachings in the Bible and the Quran.

The efforts of the Kenya Christian Professional Forum to take legal steps to oppose attempts to decriminalise homosexuality are commendable.

Kenyans should join hands to resist the blind importation of practices that threaten to pollute religious and cultural values that they hold dear to their hearts.


It’s all systems go in US direct flight plan

By FRED MUKINDA
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The government on Thursday broke the ground for major works aimed at turning around Jomo Kenyatta International Airport into a world-class facility ahead of the inaugural direct flights to the United States.

They include installing a new parking system, kicking out corrupt personnel, regulating taxi and tour operators as well as improving efficiency at security screening points.

Passengers at the airport should expect shorter queues, spending lesser time on bookings and at baggage claims, and uninterrupted water and power supply. And with a state-of-the-art garage, parking of cars will not be allowed near the terminal buildings.

Three Cabinet secretaries signed a memorandum of understanding binding seven State agencies under their ministries, which operate at the airport, to a 100-day deadline on the goals.

Giving the agencies’ chief executives an ultimatum, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i warned that the masterplan should not gather dust on shelves.

“Government documents are signed everyday and we go on leave,” said Dr Matiang’i. “Others just disappear.

SIGNING CHARTERS

“We can’t just sign things and walk away. Signing the charters is just the beginning. I want a report from you on how we are performing on the basis of this charter.

“If we need to change the personnel, we do so; if we must invest more resources, we do that, so that we don’t repeat mistakes that have been made in the past.

“Change must be felt by people passing through this airport.”

Dr Matiang’i said he would convene a meeting every four months to ensure the high standards are maintained.

“We need to change our attitude as public servants,” he said. “When you take bribes, when you are working in Customs and you track fellow Kenyans who are coming back to the country and make them feel as if it’s a crime to travel, you are hurting our country. When you frustrate a visitor, when you are rude and take forever to assist people, you are hurting our country.”

ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES

Transport CS James Macharia warned executives in his ministry: “We want to hear action. Whenever we commit ourselves, we have to follow it up with action.”

He cited a case where two aeroplanes were grounded at Wilson Airport on orders of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority director-general Gilbert Kibe. The planes, he said without substantiating, were engaging in “illegal activities”.

Government agencies at the airport are Kenya Airports Police Unit, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Airports Authority, Kenya Plants Health Inspectorate Service, the Port Health, Immigration directorate and National Youth Service.

Airlines and other private service providers are also targeted in the government plan.

DIRECT FLIGHT

KAA managing director Johny Andersen said the agencies at the airport are often not coordinated and, therefore, passengers are inconvenienced.

“What we have been experiencing here is that we are uncoordinated,” said Mr Andersen. “So, what we are trying to do now is to coordinate all the services we have at this airport.”

Mr Andersen said the charter assigns long lists of “improvement items” to agencies that operate at the airport.

The maiden direct flight to the US, which will land in New York, is scheduled for October.


Council puts nursing colleges on notice over standards

By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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The Nursing Council of Kenya has identified at least five fake nursing training institutions which do not meet minimum requirements to offer the course.

Subsequently the council has put on notice the rogue institutions offering substandard nursing courses to upgrade or face closure.

The chief executive officer of NCK, Ms Edna Tallam, however, in an interview with the Nation, declined to name the affected institutions that face immediate de-registration.

Ms Tallam assured Kenyans that the council is determined to make sure only qualified institutions offer the critical course.

“We are concerned as a council on the increasing half-baked nursing graduates who are incompetent and are handling the lives of millions of Kenyans on a daily basis,” she said.

The CEO said the clean-up exercise would be extended to all counties.

INSPECT INSTITUTIONS

“So far we have started in Nairobi but our ultimate goal is to visit all the 47 counties and inspect both the private and government sponsored institutions to ensure they conform with the standards,” said Ms Tallam.

She was speaking at PCEA Nakuru Nursing College where the board member toured and inspected facilities at the institution on Wednesday evening.

“We must eliminate the quacks who are giving the nursing profession a bad name,” said the NCK boss.

The national chairman of the National Nurses Association of Kenya, Mr Alfred Obengo, warned training institutions purporting to train nurses without the approval of the board that their days are numbered.

“We are coming for you and we shall deal with you and make sure you face the full force of the law,” said Mr Obengo, who is also the chairman of the disciplined and ethics committee at the nursing board.

“The nursing profession is about human lives and we shall not allow quacks to gamble and experiment with the bodies of Kenyans in their quest to earn illegal money,” he said.

Mr Obengo also raised concern over the mushrooming of nursing schools which were producing half-baked nurse saying: “We shall mop out from the system some of the half-baked nurses in our hospitals who are mistreating patients because they were ill-trained.”

A board member Mr Kinuthia wa Mwangi said that major reforms were underway to streamline the operations of the council to ensure the citizens get top of the range services from more than 60,000 registered nursing in the country.

So far the council has inspected institutions in Nairobi, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties. 


Mixing herbs, drugs could be lethal, study reveals

By RUTH MBULA
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If you frequently take medicinal herbs in between prescribed drugs, you risk contracting life-threatening conditions, a medical body has warned.

South African Medical Research Council warns that alternating traditional herbs with prescribed drugs can interfere with their working and even cause adverse reactions in the body.

The research council says it analysed the effects of herbal medicines on people taking medication for heart diseases, cancer or kidney problems.

Publishing in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology on January 24, the researchers say herbs such as St John’s-wort, sage, flaxseed, chamomile, cranberry and green tea often used around the world including Kenya, and seen as health boosters can actually compromise prescription drugs such as statins and antidepressants.

The researchers said the dangers “were grossly under reported” because people often did not realise that the herbal remedies were to blame.

DANGEROUS SIDE EFFECTS

“Such common drugs such as statins, warfarin and others can interact with health supplements, leading to dangerous side effects or reducing the drugs’ effectiveness powers,” the council said in the report published on Wednesday.

Statins works to lower the level of cholesterol in blood and can reduce cardiovascular disease. Warfarin helps to keep blood flowing smoothly in one’s body by decreasing the amount of certain substances (clotting proteins) in the blood.

Intake of herbal medicines and prescribed medications is a common practice especially in patients with hypertension, diabetes, cancer, seizures and depression.

Millions of Kenyans out of desperation turn to herbal medicines in a heal-quick desire.

The University of Nairobi has in the past publicly endorsed herbal medicine as an important arm of health care in the country, but with the new findings, caution is needed.

HERBAL MEDICINE

According to UoN, the leaning towards herbal medicine, is no longer just a rural activity. Its influence is more significant in urban Kenya.

The new research now suggests that doctors should make it clear to patients that they should not be taking herbal remedies alongside drugs.

Also, the notion that the use of herbal medicine is a sign of poverty and ignorance is not right.

In 2011, thousands of Kenyans rushed to Loliondo in Tanzania for a dose of an alleged wonder drug.

Patients suffering from terminal illnesses abandoned prescribed drugs for a cup of herbal concoction administered by Mr Ambilikile Masapila or Babu wa Loliondo.

But with time, the Babu wa Loliondo craze died.

PATIENTS LIED

The new research now suggests that doctors should make it clear to patients that they should not be taking herbal remedies alongside drugs.

“Assessment and subsequent mechanistic studies of herbs with clinically relevant herbal drug interactions must be publicised to alert both clinicians and patients about the need to avoid co-usage of certain herbal medicines with specific prescribed medications,” advised the scholars.

They also found out that many patients lied about their use of herbal medicines to the doctors, leaving specialists in the dark about potential drug interactions.