Survival pushing Kenyan women into mining toxic mercury

Scorching sun beats down on half a dozen women as they carry large sacks of crushed ore on their backs at the Osiri-Matanda gold mine near Kenya’s border with Tanzania.On wooden tables, they sieve the powdered ore into metal pans, add mercury, and heat the mixture over a charcoal fire.

The air fills with fumes as the liquid metal evaporates – leaving behind a lump of gold.

The women complain the work is hard, hours long and wages meager. But the job brings bigger concerns: exposure to toxic mercury could be killing them.

“Many women here know the risk,” said Eunice Atieno, 40, dumping a sack by the side of her table at the mine in Kenya’s southwestern Migori county.

“But we do not know what else to do for a living if we stop working here,” she said, describing health problems, such as weight loss, body weakness and trembling hands, which she has experienced after a decade working in the mines.

Atieno is one of more than 1,000 women across 25 countries including Kenya, Myanmar and Indonesia, whose hair samples were tested for mercury by IPEN, a Stockholm-based network of charities focusing on health and environment.

IPEN found that more than 40 percent of those tested, including Atieno, had mercury levels greater than 1 part per million — exceeding the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s safe exposure level.

High mercury levels can damage the nervous, digestive and immune systems and poison the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes, says the World Health Organization. Pregnant women also risk giving birth to babies with congenital diseases.

Kenya’s 2016 mining act outlaws the use of mercury.

But there are no easily available alternatives and many of its 250,000 small-scale gold miners – mostly in western Kenya around Lake Victoria – are unaware of the risks or too poor to care, campaigners say.

“Health workers and government officials should be resourced to conduct workshops among women involved in small-scale gold mining to explain the toxicity of mercury to women and the unborn children,” said IPEN’s researcher Lee Bell.

“They should also assess them for mercury intoxication and provide appropriate healthcare, demonstrate how they can minimize their exposure to mercury in the short-term and work with them to implement non-mercury gold extraction techniques.”

Health Risks

About 20 percent of the world’s gold comes from small-scale mines, which employ up to 15 million people, including 5 million women and children, the United Nations says.

Mercury has been used to extract gold for centuries. It is inexpensive and simple – often allowing miners to produce gold in a single day.

Developed nations have adopted cleaner, safer alternatives for extracting gold, and enforced strict rules on mercury use.

But poor countries lag behind. Government officials, mine operators and workers often ignore the health risks of mercury exposure, citing a lack of capacity and expertise to better protect workers, experts say.

“We still do not have an alternative even though we are supposed to phase out the use of mercury,” said Bismarck Onyando, owner of the Osiri-Matanda mine.

The only other way of separating gold from sand in Kenya is to use sodium cyanide, which can kill instantly, he said.

Beatrice Ondieki, 29, had been working at the Osiri-Matanda mine for just over a year when her family noticed she was ill.

First, her hands began to shake uncontrollably. Then she started stammering. When she began to have difficulty walking, her brother suspected her symptoms were linked to mercury.

“She was found to have high levels of mercury in her blood and the doctor commenced her treatment, giving her some tablets to reduce the mercury,” said her brother Stephen Ondieki.

“She got better initially, but the side effects of the medication have caused her to have severe stomach pains and she now stopped the treatment and is at home in bed. The family is trying raise enough money to admit her to hospital.”

Another Way

In August, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to reduce the use of mercury, came into force. Ratifying countries must develop plans to eliminate harmful mercury use, promote mercury-free mining and improve miners’ health.

While almost 130 nations signed the agreement, about 40 – including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – have not ratified it.

Kenyan officials say they are committed to the convention.

“We plan to phase out mercury, but first we are working on registering the miners, hopefully within three years,” said Raymond Odanga, inspector of mines for Migori County.

“Then it will be much easier to deal with the mercury issue.

Currently the miners are still using it. Getting them to change to other methods will take some time,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The United Nations Environment Program and the Global Environment Facility, which provides grants, launched a project last year to finance and promote safer gold extraction technologies in eight countries, including Kenya.

Atieno – who started a support group for women miners after discovering the toll mercury is taking on their health – says it needs to act quickly.

“We depend on this job to put food on the table. But we are at a risk and cannot wait until we die from mercury exposure,” she said, as the vapors rose into the air. “We appeal to authorities to give us another way to extract gold without having to use mercury.”

~VOA

Kenya goes to polls

Long queues are forming in Kenya as voters wait to cast their ballots in a hotly contested election that pits incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against the nation’s former prime minister.

“I have been here for around two hours,” one man standing in line at a polling booth in Busia County on the border with Uganda told CNN affiliate NTV. “I came at six in the morning to exercise my democratic right and bring change to this country.”
Raila Odinga, who’s running for president for the fourth time, served as prime minister between 2008 and 2013. As the candidate for the National Super Alliance party, he is one of eight presidential candidates and the incumbent’s main challenger.
Kenyatta, who leads the Jubilee Alliance and is seeking a second five-year term, is the nation’s youngest president at 55. If he loses, he’ll make history as the only incumbent Kenyan president not to win re-election.
-CNN

Team Kenya triumphs at the World Cross country Championships, Uganda comes third

Uganda have finished third overall in the 2017 World Cross Country Championship that climaxed at the Kololo Independence ground on Sunday.

Team Uganda finished with 35 points after bagging one goal medal and two bronze medals. Kenya who dominated the competition won the overall team event with three gold medals, four silver medals and two bronze medals to bag 79 points.

Ethiopia who won the last competition in China were second with 58 points. Baharain and Eritrea were fourth and fifth respectively.

Kenya was dominant in the mixed relay, Senior women and senior men races at the Kololo Independence grounds.

Kenya’s team of Asbel Kiprop, Winfred Nzisa Mbithe, Bernard Kiprorir Koros and Beatrice Chepkoech started off the day in style by winning the first ever mixed relay (8km) gold medal.

In the second race of the day women’s U-20 race (6km) saw Ethiopia win gold, while Kenya was second to settle for silver and hosts Uganda in third place with a bronze medal.

Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo was in good form as he bagged the country first ever World Cross Country gold medal when he won the U-20 men’s race with a time of 22.40 over 8km.

The Kenyans who were cheered on by over 200 traveling fans dominated the women’s senior race with six runners occupying the first six places. Irene Chepet Cheptai won the race with a time of 31:57, while Alice Aprot Nawowuna came second.

In the men’s senior race Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei dominated most of the race, but was unlucky to get tired later as Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor retained his gold medal he won in China at the previous Championship. Ethiopia however won the team event gold medal, while Kenya picked silver and Uganda a bronze medal.

 

 

 

 

-URN

Kenya experiencing one of the worst drought, depressed villagers are opting for suicide

The worst drought Kenya is experiencing in recent years is driving some depressed villagers to commit suicide.
According to Red Cross officials in the East African country, an unspecified number of people have taken their lives as they could not deal with the suffering.
Kenya is currently facing drought that has affected millions who are struggling to get food.
“To some of the affected, they hang on strands of hope for the appearance of good Samaritans, while others have surrendered their fate to the ravaging drought,” said Noellah Musundi of the Kenya Red Cross Society.

The official said some 13 counties are in the alarm stage of drought classification.
These include Baringo, Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Lamu, Mandera, Wajir, Samburu, Turkana and West Pokot.
An additional ten are in the alert stage including Embu, Kajiado, Kitui, Laikipia, Makueni, Narok, Nyeri, Taita Taveta, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.
The drought situation follows poor performance of the 2016 long rains (March to May) and failure of the 2016 short rains (October to December) leaving 1,3 million people food insecure as of December.
The situation has since escalated in January to more than 2 million people and as of February, the figure has reached to 2,7 million of Kenya’s 46-million population.

 

 

-CAJ news

Kenyan preacher given a jet for his 50th birthday

Kenyans on social media are at it after a Kenyan famous preacher was handed a jet on his 50th Birthday.

To commemorate his birthday, the church held a huge celebration where he was officially consecrated as a Bishop.

What got Kenyans talking was the gift he was presented to and the popularity of the #BishopKiunaAt50. While everyone else was mourning the victims of 39 people who perished in the Naivasha tanker accident, Bishop Kiuna was gifted a private jet on his birthday which got Kenyans talking.

-TUKO

Albinos battle for Mr and Miss Albino title in one of a kind contest

Youngsters with albinism are stepping into the limelight, hoping to be named Kenya’s first Mr and Miss Albino.

In Africa, albinism is associated with many negative misconceptions and superstitions. As a result, many albinos suffer stigma, alienation and even physical abuse.

The pageant being held later in Nairobi also aims to boost the confidence of young people with albinism.

BBC Africa’s Dayo Yusuf reports.

 

Elders on fire over Lupita’s tree climbing photo, it is abominable

A storm is brewing in Seme, the village of Oscar award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o after she was pictured climbing a tree while donning a dress in the presence of her father.

The elders have apparently raised issue with the act which they said went overboard and is taboo in the community.

A section of the elders have reportedly called for a ‘cleansing ceremony’ terming it an abomination to their community.

In the video by Vogue, Lupita take goes back to her roots, takes a walk with her father Senator Anyang Nyong’o  in Seme and cooks ugali with her mother, Dorothy Nyong’o.

The sensational reaction on social media has been diverse,

“It is a behavior which our society does not embrace. A father is supposed to be a family role model and the head of the house and under no circumstance is a grown up woman allowed to do that,” said Leah Adhiambo.

 

-Standard

David and Florence arrived in Mombasa.

By Yonna Tukundane

RwandAir handed over air tickets to Florence Namaganda and David Kasiwukira the winners of the big wedding season Four.

The couple was flown out Thursday afternoon for a six night honey moon at Swahili Beach in Mombasa Kenya. RwandAir country manager Adah Magezi handed over the tickets to the newlyweds at RwandAir head offices at Rwenzori courts.

The couple made their matrimonial vows on the 19th of August at Uganda Martyrs church in Katwe after winning a fully sponsored wedding by Capital Radio and its partners.

David and Florence arrived at Swahili Beach last night and were welcomed to their new home for the next 6 nights.

5th edition of Vintage and classic Auto Show has been launched

By Wasswa Deo

The Commercial Bank of Africa Vintage and classic Auto Show for 5th edition has been launched.  The annual event is scheduled to take place on 30th July this year at Sheraton gardens and over 100 vintage and classic cars and 20 motorcycles will be on display for enthusiasts.

The commercial Bank of Africa Vintage and classic show will be showcasing some of the fanciest, oldest, showiest cars that Uganda has to offer.

Speaking at the launch, Dr. John Bosco Niwagaba has noted that major intention is to grow this annual event into an international tourism sensation to have vintage car lovers flock in from all parts of continent.

According to him, this year the event will see vintage car exhibitors from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda the hosts.


Photo: www.mybulkleylakesnow.com

Kenyan MP rewards women 1000 bob for being pregnant

Pregnant women in Murang’a County received a rare gift from their County MP, Sabina Chege.

They each received Sh1,000 as a ‘thank-you’ gift for being pregnant.

“I am happy to see that your men are now active. It is good that you are going to be mothers. I want to congratulate you. Cases of illicit brew have reduced in the area, which is a good thing,” she said.

The County MP was speaking at a public rally in Murang’a.

She advised the women to use the money to buy their husbands soup to spice things up and also, as a way of saying asante.

“I am happy that the nursery schools in the area will not be closed. I was scared that we had lost our men to illicit brew,” she told The Nairobian.

Sabina has been at the forefront of the war against alcoholism and drug abuse in the county.  “There are reports that illicit alcohol is making a comeback in some areas. I am therefore calling on the relevant authorities not relent,” she had said during a past interview.

She praised the role played by women and administrators in the fight against alcoholism in Murang’a.

Maendeleo ya Wanawake Chair, Rehab Mwikali, lauded the MP’s efforts to deal with illicit brew and encouraged the women to continue supporting their men.

President Uhuru Kenyatta started the onslaught against illicit brew on July 1, 2015 after a meeting with leaders from Central Kenya in State House.

 

-Standard digital