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COVID-19 economic impacts push people to the edge

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-07-19 17:17

The economic impact of the novel coronavirus has resulted in an increased number of mental health and suicide cases in Kenya due to depression, while others are engaging in dangerous activities to put food on the table with some losing their lives in the process.

On Saturday, the body of Irungu Wanjaro, a popular Kenyan Kikuyu dialect musician, was discovered in the Masinga Dam.

Wanjaro committed suicide by jumping into a river over failure to pay a $6,469 debt. He had left behind a suicide note informing his family members where they would find his lifeless body.

Three weeks ago, Kioko Mutie, a primary school head teacher in Yanyonge Primary school in Kenya's Kitui County, committed suicide in his office at the institution's administration block.

The body of the 46-year-old teacher who had not left any suicide note was found hanging from the roof inside the office by his fellow teachers who got curious after he locked himself in the office for a long time, contrary to his normal character.

In late May, Daniel Omondi threw himself into Ngong River after losing his job. Omondi had unsuccessfully tried to secure an alternative source of income.

Wanjaro, Mutie and Omondi are just a portion of the number of people who have committed suicide since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, which has significantly affected individuals in terms of health, finances and psychology.

According to the Ministry of Health, the country has experienced a sharp increase in suicide cases, mental health conditions, substance use and addictive disorders which points to social challenges and unmet needs at the societal level.

On July 7, Mutahi Kagwe, the cabinet secretary for health, confirmed that the number of people seeking help for mental health-related issues in hospitals had increased since the outbreak of COVID-19.

To solve the challenges, the ministry launched the mental health action plan 2021-2025 last month. The 74-page document spells out a four-point broad plan to boost mental health support as well as increase funding.

The massive loss of jobs has also compelled people to endanger their lives in efforts to put food on the table.

On Sunday, at least 13 people died in Kenya's western region and several others sustained serious injuries when an overturned petrol tanker caught fire as they siphoned off fuel.

Asked why they decided to risk their lives despite warnings by authorities following previous occurrences, the survivors said lack of money due to joblessness forced them to siphon fuel.

According to the Federation of Kenya Employers, over 5 million Kenyans lost their jobs between March and August last year.

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