Fearing India-Like Coronavirus Collapse, Kenya Scrambles For Oxygen

Critical care nurse, Emily Chepng’eno (L) fits a ventilator mask during a simulation to demonstrate delivery of medical oxygen to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) following the installation of a modern Oxygen plant at the Metropolitan Hospital in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on May 5, 2021. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

 

 

At the peak of Kenya’s third wave of COVID-19 in March, hospitals — buckling under the strain of the virus — saw their oxygen reserves fizzle out. 

Since then, they have been scrambling to increase capacity of the lifesaving element, fearing the nightmare scenario currently unfolding in India due to oxygen shortages.

On the roof of the Metropolitan Hospital, a 150-bed private institution that targets the middle class, a brand-new oxygen production unit has just been installed that is capable of producing up to 600 litres of the gas per minute.

Metropolitan CEO Kanyenje Gakombe said the hospital accelerated plans to produce its own oxygen after supplies were squeezed to the limit during the height of the third wave, fanned by the variants of the coronavirus first detected in Britain and South Africa.

In April Kenya registered a record 571 deaths, and the health ministry warned hospitals were overrun with fewer than 300 patients in the Intensive Care Unit and fewer than 2,000 hospitalised countrywide.

 

A technician installs the final phase of a domestic oxygen plant at Metropolitan Hospital in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on May 12, 2021. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

 

“The reserve dwindled, it decreased to the point where we were collecting oxygen 24/7,” recalled Gakombe.

At one point “we were down to six hours of reserves and that was a very, very worrying situation.”

The grey-haired doctor admits that in his 27 years at the helm of the facility, he had rarely worried about the oxygen supply which was “something we took for granted”.

But where a typical patient uses “two to 15 litres” of oxygen per minute, a Covid patient requires “up to 60 litres”, he said.

“We wanted to make sure we were self-sufficient, not dependent on third parties to provide us with the oxygen we needed,” he said, referring to industry suppliers, like Kenya’s gas manufacturer BOC.

 

– Crucial medical oxygen –
So the Metropolitan flew in machines from Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and China to put together the oxygen production unit, which cost 100 million shillings (nearly 800,000 euros/ $935,000).

“Basically the plant takes in atmospheric air and separates the oxygen from all the other components,” explains Davis Mareka, director of O2 International, the Kenyan company that installed the machines.

The oxygen is “purified and dried to at least a purity level of 95 percent, which is actually the requirement by the World Health Organization”.

The hospital also built a piping system that delivers oxygen directly to its rooms rather than using cylinders, which are also scarce.

Oxygen, which makes up 21 percent of the atmosphere, is vital in this concentrated form to save patients with severe forms of respiratory distress from Covid-19.

Several other private hospitals in Nairobi, like the MP Shah facility, have also set up or expanded their own production units.

“We have received several requests for different facilities,” said Jeremy Gitau, co-founder of the Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation, which helps Kenyan hospitals equip themselves with oxygen distribution systems.

Meanwhile the government launched a call for tenders at the beginning of March to supply 16 counties with oxygen, and has urged the repair of numerous production units that are “no longer working”.

The availability of medical oxygen has become a critical issue in many countries, especially developing ones, with shortages in DR Congo, price speculation in Peru and a growing black market in Brazil.

In India, relatives hunt spare cylinders as their loved ones die waiting for oxygen in overwhelmed hospitals.

 

Critical care nurse, Emily Chepng’eno configures a ventilator machine after plugging it into the Oxygen delivery port during a simulation to demonstrate delivery of medical oxygen to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) following the installation of a modern Oxygen plant at the Metropolitan Hospital in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on May 5, 2021.  (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

 

– India ‘gets us worried’ –
Kenya has a large Indo-Kenyan community and many citizens see India as a key medical destination for treatments not available at home.

“To see … the Indian healthcare system overrun, overwhelmed, that gets us worried. India is a place we look to for an example of good quality hospital healthcare,” said Gakombe.

India, like much of Africa, had been seen as spared by the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, due to relatively low case and death numbers compared to many countries.

However, an explosion in cases which has seen India become the second-most infected country in the world, and horrifying scenes of hospitals pushed to breaking point, has put Africa on high alert.

The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has described what is happening in India as “very, very worrying”.

Kenya has already detected the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 that is one of the factors fuelling India’s dramatic surge in cases.

The East African nation has vaccinated fewer than one million people.

Kenya Suspends Flights To Somalia For Three Months

Kenya announced that flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu had been suspended.

 

 

Kenya announced Tuesday that flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu had been suspended, just days after Somalia said diplomatic ties with its neighbour had been normalised following months of tension.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said commercial flights to and from Somalia would be paused for three months, without giving a reason.

“All flights between Kenya and Somalia are suspended expect medevac flights and United Nations flights on humanitarian missions only,” the regulator said..

KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe told AFP the suspension was “a decision by the government” but gave no further details.

The directive appeared catch some Somali aviation officials and travel agents by surprise.

“We had not been given a prior notice, and there’s been no explanation about the reason so far,” an airport tower operator in Mogadishu told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The suspension comes a day after Somalia said shipments of khat from Kenya remained on hold. Khat is a narcotic leaf popular in Somalia.

Somalia announced last week that bilateral ties with Kenya had been restored, citing “the interests of good neighbourliness” as motivating its decision.

Nairobi said it took note of the statement and was looking forward “to further normalisation of relations by the Somali authorities.”

Mogadishu cut off diplomatic relations in December after Nairobi hosted the political leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by Somalia’s central government.

Somalia has long bristled over what it calls Kenya’s meddling in regions over its border, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.

The pair have also engaged in a long-running territorial dispute over a stretch of the Indian Ocean claimed by both nations believed to hold valuable deposits of oil and gas, and have sought international arbitration over the matter.

Diplomatic Ties Restored With Kenya, Says Somalia

Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country in the Horn of Africa.

 

Somalia said Thursday it had restored diplomatic ties with Kenya, five months after bilateral relations were suspended between the often-tense neighbours over allegations of interference.

Somalia cut ties on December 15 after Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by the central government in Mogadishu.

“The Federal Government of Somalia announces that in keeping with the interests of good neighbourliness, it has resumed diplomatic relations with the Republic of Kenya,” the ministry of information said in a statement.

“The two governments agree to keep friendly relations between the two countries on the basis of principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other internation affair.”

The statement thanked the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, whom it credited with playing a part in the reconciliation, and said the thaw had been welcomed by Kenya.

Nairobi said it took note of the statement and was looking forward “to further normalisation of relations by the Somali authorities.”

“The ministry of foreign affairs acknowledges the continued support that has been extended from the international community, and in particular the government of Qatar, in efforts to normalise the diplomatic relations between Somalia and Kenya,” it said in a statement.

Somalia has long bristled over what it calls Kenya’s meddling in regions over its border, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.

The pair have also engaged in a long-running territorial dispute over a stretch of the Indian Ocean claimed by both nations believed to hold valuable deposits of oil and gas, and have sought international arbitration over the matter.

The row over which nation controls access to the lucrative deposits escalated in early 2019 after Somalia decided to auction off oil and gas blocks in a disputed maritime area, prompting Kenya to recall its ambassador from Mogadishu in February of that year.

Kenya Eases Some Restrictions But Protests Still Banned

KENYATTA
File: Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta gives a speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC on February 5, 2020.
Eric BARADAT / AFP.

 

 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted and scaled back some anti-Covid-19 measures on Saturday, including reopening schools and freeing travel in and out of Nairobi, but a ban on protests remained in place.

In a May Day speech, Kenyatta cited a 74 percent drop in infections in the capital from March to April and a drop of 89 percent in the country’s second-largest city of Mombasa.

Travel into and out of Nairobi and surrounding counties is now allowed and its curfew has been shortened to reflect the 10 pm to 4 am ban in effect in the rest of the country.

Schools, which have been shut since the end of March, will reopen May 10.

Bars across the country may now operate on restricted hours, restaurants are allowed to open, and sporting events and religious services authorised with caps on attendance.

However “the prohibition against political gatherings is extended until otherwise directed,” the public order said.

The nation of 52 million people has recorded nearly 160,000 Covid-19 cases and 2,724 deaths.

Nearly 570 of virus-related deaths were registered during the month of April alone, making it the deadliest month for Kenya since the start of the pandemic.

But government statistics indicate a decrease in positive tests from 18 percent in the last week of March to 10 percent this week.

Like several of its east African neighbours, Kenya put strict measures in place to stop the spread of the virus between March and July 2020.

A second wave hit Kenya from September to December and a third that began in March is still underway.

The president said a continued downward trend in infections could lead to further easing of measures, but urged caution.

“Sadly, a surge of infections will necessitate an escalation of the containment measures,” he warned, “a possibility we all dread.”

IMF Board Approves $2.3bn Aid Package For Kenya

In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

 

The IMF on Friday approved a $2.34 billion aid package to Kenya to “address the urgent need to reduce debt vulnerabilities,” the institution said in a statement.

The Washington-based development lender said the funds would be spread over 38 months, with an immediate disbursement of about $307.5 million, “usable for budget support.”

“Kenya was hit hard at the onset by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the International Monetary Fund said, highlighting the country’s “forceful policy response” that led to an economic recovery in 2021 after a slight contraction in GDP in 2020.

But the crisis has also exacerbated “pre-existing fiscal vulnerabilities.”

“Kenya’s debt remains sustainable, but it is at high risk of debt distress,” the statement said, adding that “fiscal and balance-of-payments financing needs remain sizable over the medium term.”

Antoinette Sayeh, IMF deputy managing director, called the aid “a strong signal of support and confidence” but noted it is “subject to notable risks, including from uncertainty about the path of the pandemic.”

Kenya Withdraws From ICJ Hearing Over Somalia Border Dispute

Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean.
Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean.

 

Kenya will not attend International Court of Justice hearings that begin this week over a long-running border dispute with Somalia, according to a letter seen Sunday by AFP.

The ICJ was asked by Somalia to rule in a case that could decide which of the two countries will have control over a large Indian Ocean zone that is rich in fish and which might contain substantial crude oil reserves.

But in a letter sent Thursday, Kenyan prosecutor general Kihara Kariuki told the Hague-based court his country “shall not be participating in the hearing in the case” that is scheduled for Monday.

Kariuki said the first reason was that “Covid-19 pandemic conditions have hampered Kenya’s ability to prepare adequately for the hearing.”

The UN tribunal rules in disputes between countries, and has been hearing a case brought by Somalia in 2014.

Somalia, which lies northeast of Kenya, wants to extend its maritime frontier with Kenya along the line of the land border, in a southeasterly direction.

Kenya wants the border to head out to sea in a straight line east, giving it more territory.

The disputed triangle of water stretches over an area of more than 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles).

In its letter, Kenya also argued that holding the ICJ hearings virtually did not allow it to present its case in the most effective way.

“Kenya humbly requests the Court to afford its Agent a thirty minute opportunity to orally address the court before the commencement of the actual hearings,” the letter said.

Kenya recalled its ambassador to Somalia in February 2019 after accusing Somalia of selling oil and gas blocks at a London auction despite the pending delineation case before the ICJ.

Kenya also contested the ICJ’s authority to rule in the case.

Somalia has not responded for the moment to Kenya’s decision to boycott the hearing, and the ICJ did not immediately reply to an AFP request for comment on the case.

AFP

Kenya Launches COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) gives an address following his tour of the Nairobi National Vaccine Depot where the country’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccines are preserved in cold storage in Nairobi on March 4, 2021. PHOTO: TONY KARUMBA / AFP

 

Kenya on Friday began vaccinating high-priority healthcare workers against coronavirus, as initial consignments of the long-awaited drugs began to be rolled out in East Africa.

In Kenya, the director-general of the health ministry Patrick Amoth was the first to receive the jab, after the drugs arrived in the country on Wednesday.

“I feel great that I have taken the Covid vaccine and I urge other health workers not to fear. The vaccine is safe,” he said.

READ ALSO: NAFDAC Concludes Final Test, Certifies AstraZeneca Vaccines Safe For Use In Nigeria

Intensive care staff and final-year medical students working in hospitals will follow.

Medical personnel at the Nairobi National Vaccine Depot where the country’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccines are preserved in cold storage, unpack packages used to deliver the consignment in Nairobi on March 4, 2021. PHOTO: TONY KARUMBA / AFP

 

Rwanda also began its vaccination campaign in earnest after an initial 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine were rolled out to select health workers in February.

Kenya has received just over one million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, which was manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, under the UN-led Covax initiative which is assisting poorer countries to receive the medicine.

“This is an exciting moment for our nation. We have been fighting the pandemic with rubber bullets. But what we have acquired today is equivalent, metaphorically speaking, to bazookas and machine guns in the fight against the pandemic,” Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said upon the arrival of the vaccines.

Kenya will first vaccinate some 400,000 health workers before moving to other priority workers like police and teachers in a first phase estimated to last until June.

From July to June 2022 the country will focus on those at high risk of death or disease, and then a final phase running until July 2023 will target the rest of the country.

Kenya has recorded 107,000 cases and 1,870 deaths from coronavirus.

Also under Covax, Rwanda became the first African country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday, with around 100,000 doses delivered, and has also received 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab.

Rwanda, a country of 12 million, plans to inoculate 30 percent of its population this year, and 60 percent by the end of 2022.

Uganda meanwhile is expecting its first shipment of vaccines to arrive Friday and will start giving out the drugs on March 10.

The East African nations were among the first on the continent to implement strict lockdowns in a bid to hold back the pandemic in March 2020. All three countries still maintain an evening curfew.

AFP

Eritrean Troops Killed ‘Hundreds’ In Ethiopia Massacre, Says Amnesty

Eritrean Army reinforcements head 17 May 2000 toward Akurdet, 60 kms from the western city of Barentu, some 180 kms from the capital Asmara, which is under heavy attack from Ethiopian forces that are now deep inside Eritrea. Eritrea has been embroiled in a bitter 24 month border war with neighbouring Ethiopia. The latest fighting started 12 May 2000. Ethiopia said late 17 May 2000 that its forces had captured Das in Eritrea during heavy fighting.
Eritrean Army reinforcements head 17 May 2000 toward Akurdet, 60 kms from the western city of Barentu, some 180 kms from the capital Asmara. AFP

 

Eritrean soldiers fighting across the border in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region killed hundreds of people in a massacre last year in a likely crime against humanity, Amnesty International said Friday.

The rights watchdog spoke to survivors of the atrocities and used satellite images to piece together the bloody events of last November in the ancient town of Axum in a new report.

“The evidence is compelling and points to a chilling conclusion. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops carried out multiple war crimes in their offensive to take control of Axum,” said Deprose Muchena of Amnesty International.

“Above and beyond that, Eritrean troops went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood, which appears to constitute crimes against humanity.

“This atrocity ranks among the worst documented so far in this conflict.”

Tigray has been the theatre of fighting since early November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accusing them of attacking federal army camps.

He declared victory after pro-government troops took the regional capital Mekele in late November, though the TPLF vowed to fight on, and clashes have persisted in the region.

Tigray has been without internet and difficult to access since the start of the conflict, making claims and counter-claims of violence hard to confirm.

The presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia is widely documented but has been denied by Addis Ababa and Asmara.

Eritrea fought a brutal border war with Ethiopia in 1998-2000, back when the TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s governing coalition.

Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 in large part for initiating a rapprochement with Eritrea, whose President Isaias Afwerki and the TPLF remain bitter enemies.

‘Killing randomly’

Amnesty said it had spoken to 41 survivors and witnesses of the violence who said that on November 19, 2020, Ethiopian and Eritrean military forces took control of Axum “in a large-scale offensive, killing and displacing civilians with indiscriminate shelling and shooting.”

“In the nine days that followed, the Eritrean military engaged in widespread looting of civilian property and extrajudicial executions.”

Witnesses said the Eritrean forces were easily identifiable, via their vehicles, language and unique ritual facial scars, while they also openly declared themselves as such.

The worst violence unfolded after a small group of pro-TPLF militiamen attacked the soldiers’ base on 28 November and they retaliated, leaving the town strewn with bodies.

“The Eritrean soldiers came into the city and started killing randomly,” said a 22-year-old man who had wanted to bring food to the militia, who he described as young and barely knowing how to fight.

Residents told Amnesty that many victims in Axum carried no weapons and were running away from the soldiers when they were shot.

“I saw a lot of people dead on the street. Even my uncle’s family. Six of his family members were killed. So many people were killed,” said a 21-year-old male resident.

The next day the soldiers allegedly shot at those trying to move the bodies, while carrying out house-to-house raids.

One man told Amnesty he saw soldiers line up six men and shoot them from behind in the street outside his house.

Hundreds buried

The organisation said it had collected the names of more than 240 of the victims, but could not independently verify the overall death toll. However, corroborating testimonies and evidence made it plausible that hundreds had died.

“Residents estimate that several hundred people were buried in the aftermath of the massacre, and they attended funerals at several churches where scores were buried,” said the report.

Satellite imagery showed signs of mass burials near two of the town’s churches.

“As a matter of urgency, there must be a UN-led investigation into the grave violations in Axum. Those suspected of responsibility for war crimes or crimes against humanity must be prosecuted in fair trials and victims and their families must receive full reparation,” said Muchena.

“We repeat our call on the Ethiopian government to grant full and unimpeded access across Tigray for humanitarian, human rights, and media organisations.”

AFP

Kenyan Olympic Teams Set For Bubble Training Ahead Of Tokyo

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Kenya’s Olympic teams are to start training in specialised bubble camps early March in the run-up to the Tokyo games, officials said on Tuesday.

The camps are to start on March 2 and will see athletes confined to specific areas as they train, to counter the spread of Covid-19.

“The athletics long distance runners will be based in the high-altitude training region around Eldoret, while the team sports, including the men’s and women’s rugby Sevens, volleyball and Taekwondo do will be based at the Kasarani stadium,” the secretary-general of Kenya’s National Olympic board Francis Mutuku told AFP.

“The aim of the bubble camps is to cut down the amount of travelling by athletes back to their families from training, and reduce the risk of exposure to the still raging Covid-19 pandemic.”

A total of 87 Kenyan sportsmen and women have already qualified for July’s Tokyo Olympics, with the number expected to increase as the new sporting season gets underway.

Kenya hopes to take a team of 100 athletes to the rescheduled games which will be held between July 23 and August 8.

Mutuku said the athletes would be tested frequently for Covid-19 while they are in the camp, which will be closed off to outsiders.

“All the qualified athletes will be tested before they are admitted into the bubble camp.”

Kenya, a world athletics superpower finished 15th and as the top African nation at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, with a total of 13 medals: six gold, six silver and one bronze.

Kenya also topped the overall medals table at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing, for the first time in its history with seven gold, six silver and three bronze medals.

Kenya’s Locust Hunters On Tireless Quest To Halt Ancient Pest

It has been over a year since the worst desert locust infestation in decades hit the region, and while another wave of the insects is spreading through Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, the use of cutting edge technology and improved co-ordination is helping to crush the ravenous swarms and protect the livelihoods of thousands of farmers. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

 

As dawn breaks in central Kenya, a helicopter lifts off in a race to find roosting locusts before the sun warms their bodies and sends them on a ravenous flight through farmland.

Pilot Kieran Allen begins his painstaking survey from zebra-filled plains and lush maize farms, to dramatic forested valleys and the vast arid expanses further north, his eyes scouring the landscape for signs of the massed insects.

The chopper suddenly swings around after a call comes in from the locust war room on the ground: a community in the foothills of Mount Kenya has reported a swarm.

“I am seeing some pink in the trees,” his voice crackles over the headphones, pointing to a roughly 30-hectare (75-acre) swathe of desert locusts.

Reddish-pink in their immature — and hungriest — phase, the insects smother the tips of a pine forest.

Allen determines that nearby farms are at a safe distance and calls in a second aircraft which arrives in minutes to spray the swarm with pesticide.

On the ground, having warmed to just the right temperature, the thick cloud of locusts fills the air with a rustling akin to light rainfall. But a few hours from now, many will be dead from the effect of the poison.

Last month alone, Allen logged almost 25,000 kilometres (15,500 miles) of flight — more than half the circumference of the world — in his hunt for locusts after a fresh wave of insects invaded Kenya from Somalia and Ethiopia.

Like other pilots involved in the operation — who have switched from their usual business of firefighting, tourism, or rescuing hikers in distress — he has become an expert on locusts and the dangers they pose.

“Those wheat fields feed a lot of the country. It would be a disaster if they got in there,” he says pointing to a vast farm in a particularly fertile area of Mount Kenya.

Second wave

Desert locusts are a part of the grasshopper family which form massive swarms when breeding is spurred by good rains.

They are notoriously difficult to control, for they move up to 150 kilometres (90 miles) daily. Each locust eats its weight in vegetation daily and multiplies twenty-fold every three months.

The locusts first infested the east and Horn of Africa in mid-2019, eventually invading nine countries as the region experienced one of its wettest rainy seasons in decades.

Some countries like Kenya had not seen the pest in up to 70 years and the initial response was hampered by poor co-ordination, lack of pesticides and aircraft, according to Cyril Ferrand, a Nairobi-based expert with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A slick new operation to combat a second wave of pests has improved control and co-operation in Kenya, Ethiopia, and parts of Somalia.

A picture taken on February 9, 2021, shows a local farmer walking in a swarm of desert locust in Meru, Kenya.  (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Locust war room

In Kenya, the FAO has teamed up with the company 51 Degrees, which specialises in managing protected areas.

It has rejigged software developed for tracking poaching, injured wildlife and illegal logging and other conservation needs to instead trace and tackle locust swarms.

A hotline takes calls from village chiefs or some of the 3,000 trained scouts, and aircraft are dispatched.

Data on the size of the swarms and direction of travel are shared with the pilots as well as governments and organisations battling the invasion in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

“Our approach has completely been changed by good data, by timely data, and by accurate data,” said 51 Degrees director Batian Craig.

He said in Kenya the operation had focused on a “first line of defense” in remote and sometimes hostile border areas, which had successfully broken up massive swarms coming in from Ethiopia and Somalia before they reach farmland further south.

In a complex relay, when the wind shifts and the swarms head back into Ethiopia, pilots waiting on the other side of the border take over the operation.

Southern and central Somalia is a no-go zone due to the presence of Al-Shabaab Islamists and the teams can only wait for the swarms to cross over.

Ferrand told AFP that in 2020 the infestation affected the food supply and livelihoods of some 2.5 million people, and was expected to impact 3.5 million in 2021.

He said while a forecast of below average rainfall and the improved control operation could help curb the infestation, it was difficult to say when it will end.

But with dizzying climate fluctuations in the region, “we need to start looking ahead to what needs to be in place if we start to see more frequent infestations of desert locusts.”

While the size of swarms have decreased this year, each one is “affecting someone’s livelihood along the way,” said Craig.

In a Meru village, desperate farmer Jane Gatumwa’s 4.8-hectare farm of maize and beans is seething with ravenous locusts.

She and her family members run through the crops yelling and banging pieces of metal together in a futile bid to chase them away.

“They destroy everything, they have been here for like five days. I feel bad because these crops help us to get school fees and also provide food.”

“Now that there’s nothing left we will have a big problem.”

Kenya Sanctioned For Breaching COVID-19 Rules In CAF Qualifier

 

 

Kenya has been fined 2.2 million shillings ($20,000) and two senior football officials suspended for breaching Covid rules in an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Comoros, a statement said Saturday.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said the Kenyan team refused to take coronavirus tests before the match in the Comoros capital Moroni in November and only did so when Comoros football officials insisted.

“The test results arrived just a few minutes before the kick off due to the long delay,” CAF said in a statement, adding that four players had tested positive.

“Mr Barry Otieno, the general secretary of the Football Kenya Federation, and Mr Ronny Oyando, the Kenyan team manager, disputed the results …. snatched them … and tore them apart,” it said.

“Four Kenyan players including the skipper Victor Wanyama had tested positive for the coronavirus, yet they took part in the game,” CAF said.

Both Otieno and Oyando were each slapped with a six-month ban from all football activities for their actions.

Kenya had previously been fined one million shillings by CAF following a security breach in the first leg of the qualifier which ended 1-1 at the Nairobi’s Kasarani stadium.

-AFP

Kenya Detects First Cases Of South Africa COVID-19 Strain

Passengers wearing full personal protective gears get off a plane at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on January 19, 2021.  Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP
Passengers wearing full personal protective gears get off a plane at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on January 19, 2021. Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

Kenya’s health ministry says two men have tested positive for a coronavirus strain first detected in South Africa, the first such cases detected in the East African country.

Both cases, which were asymptomatic, were detected in Kenya’s coastal county of Kilifi, and involved foreigners who had since returned home, the ministry’s director-general said Wednesday.

“We all know that this variant is 50 percent more transmissible, therefore posing a significant risk, in that more people will be infected and therefore could be able to stretch the healthcare system more,” said Dr Patrick Amoth.

No information was provided about the nationalities of the men who tested positive for the variant.

According to official figures released Thursday, Kenya has recorded 99,630 cases of coronavirus, of which 1,739 have been fatal, since the outset of the pandemic.

The outbreak surged in October, with the average percentage of positive cases returned in a week soaring to above 16 percent of all tests. That number dropped below three percent last week.

Kenya took quick measures to contain the virus when it was first detected in March, imposing a strict curfew, closing bars and restaurants and shutting schools.

The country has been under some form of nighttime curfew ever since, but other measures have eased somewhat and schools reopened to all students this month after some classes partially resumed in October.

In a briefing paper released Thursday, the Kenya Medical Research Institute forecast that Covid-19 cases and deaths would steadily rise until a peak in mid-March as a likely result of reopening schools.

AFP