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Suicide Rates Rise in Malawi

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Suicide cases in Malawi have spiked this year and a UK-based Malawian mental health research group and charity organisation, MentalCare, says it may be due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

MentalCare says people with mental health problems who are driven into isolation due to the ravaging global pandemic are at higher risks of committing suicide.

The organisation’s executive director, Gerald Namwaza-Banda, who spoke in a global World Mental Health Day virtual conference from the UK on October 10, said: “People with mental health problems are so vulnerable and at high risk to commit suicide when sent in isolation due to Coronavirus because it becomes a double jeopardy for them.

“They have to deal with two stinging stigmas at once. Having mental health problems is one of the biggest stigmas in the community one can face as people are judgemental; and now if you have tested positive for coronavirus or showing signs of the virus, people stay away from you.”

World Mental Health Day is an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

Namwaza-Banda, a mental health specialist said it is dangerous to let people with mental health issues go into isolation due to Covid-19 because by having mental health problems they are already isolated from the normal world.

“While it is important to have everyone isolated when they have tested positive for coronavirus it is also important to consider people’s mental wellbeing. People with mental health problems must also be given an extra support because on their own they are prone to killing themselves,” said Namwaza-Banda.

The MentalCare boss appealed to Malawi government leadership to put in place measures that will protect people with mental health problems from harm and danger.

“The government must ensure that people with mental health problems are well looked after. Anyone can have a mental health breakdown regardless of who they are or what they do,” he said.

“In Malawi, and perhaps in all African countries, people with mental health issues are oftentimes ridiculed and sidelined and sometimes branded as weed smokers.

“Sometimes people also believe that if someone has mental health problems then he must be bewitched by his or kinsfolk, which is competely wrong.”

World Health Organization (WHO) statistics show that 79% of all suicides happen in low- and middle-income countries.

The WHO recognises World Mental Health Day on 10th October every year.

This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is ‘Mental Health for All.’

World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.

This day, each October, millions of people across the globe come together to celebrate this annual awareness program to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ lives worldwide.

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Cyclone Eloise Leaves Hundreds Homeless in Mozambique

While speaking to journalists, Unicef Mozambique spokesman Daniel Timme said “So many places are flooded already and it’s getting worse.”

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Thousands of people have been displaced following the tropical Cyclone Eloise which hit central Mozambique over the weekend. The cyclone also caused severe flooding in an area battered by two deadly cyclones in 2019, response teams and aid agencies said.

In the early hours of Saturday, Cyclone Eloise made landfall bringing high-speed winds which were followed by torrential rain over the port city of Beira, capital of Mozambique’s Sofala province, as well as the adjacent Buzi district.       

On Monday, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said nearly 7,000 people have been displaced and over 5,000 houses destroyed or damaged in the area, citing preliminary government figures.

On Sunday, six fatalities and 12 serious injuries were confirmed by National emergency response teams, with numbers expected to rise as the scale of the damage is fully assessed in coming days.

While speaking to journalists, Unicef Mozambique spokesman Daniel Timme said “So many places are flooded already and it’s getting worse.”

“Rivers are collecting water and bringing it back to the Buzi River basin” south of Beira, he said.

The city’s poorer neighbourhoods have been disproportionately affected by the cyclone, as homes made of tarpaulin and corrugated iron were swept up by winds, Timme said.

He added that hundreds of people are now in urgent need of food, medicine and proper shelter, and have now taken refuge in a school.

The area where Cyclone Eloise hit had in March and April 2019, been previously devastated by two successive super-storms.

Cyclone Idai, left more than 1,000 dead and caused damage estimated at around $2 billion (1.6 billion euros), was the first to hit the region.

Timme said aid workers were sworking round the clock to provide safe drinking water and avoid cholera, which broke out in temporary shelters across Beira around two weeks after Idai hit.

According to a report by Unicef, the United Nations’ children’s agency, an estimated that 176,000 people have been “severely affected” by Cyclone Eloise, half of which are children.

Since its Mozambique landfall, Eloise has weakened into an overland depression and moved south towards South Africa.

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East Africa News

11 Die, 14 Injured in Somalia-Kenya Border Fighting

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No fewer than 11 people have died and 14 others injured in heavy fighting that broke out overnight in a Somali town near the Kenyan border.

The incident in Bulo-Hawo town – between Somali forces and those from the state of Jubbaland, northern Somalia – continued till Monday morning.

Somalia’s Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunication in a statement accused Kenya-funded rebels of crossing into the town and attacking federal forces amid rising tensions between the two East Africa neighbours.

Kenya has not yet responded to Somalia’s statement.

Jubbaland vice president, Mohamud Sayid Adan, disclosed that Jubbaland forces stationed outside the town were attacked by what he called forces recently deployed to the region by the government in the capital, Mogadishu.

Both Jubbaland and the federal government have claimed victory.

Somali’s information ministry said federal forces are in control of the town with no fewer than 100 of the suspected rebels surrendering to Somali forces.

Information Minister, Osman Abokor Dubbe, reported that five children were killed and their mother wounded when a mortar round landed on their house.

“Ordinary militias don’t have mortars and missiles,” the minister said. “This is proof that Kenya is arming those rebels.”

Some Somali soldiers had also been wounded but none killed.

Residents say people have begun fleeing the area.

The federal government and Jubbaland’s administration have been engaged in a dispute over the process for elections and control of some regions bordering Kenya.

Somalia last month severed diplomatic relations with Kenya after accusing Nairobi of “blatant interference” in Jubbaland affairs. Kenya denied the accusation.

The regional body, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), recently sent a fact-finding mission to the border but the findings have not been made public.

Kenyan Internal Security Minister Fred Matiangi described Monday’s fighting as “internal to Somalia and has nothing to do with us (Kenya).

“We are not involved in it and none of our forces has crossed the border to go to Somalia,” he told journalists during a joint press conference with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace on renewing security agreements.

Kenya’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement that it had raised its concern about the fighting with the African Union continental body.

“Kenya’s primary concern is that the renewed fighting engenders large-scale displacement of civilians inside Somalia and increasingly generates large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers to Kenya, therefore aggravating the already dire humanitarian situation in Somalia and in the refugee camps in Kenya,” the statement said.

Somalia’s election will hold on February 8, 2021.

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Ugandan Court Rules Against Bobi Wine’s House Arrest

Bobi Wine and his wife Barbra Kyagulanyi, sought unconditional release from house detention following a week-long siege on his home by security.

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The High Court in Kampala has ruled that security forces cannot place presidential challenger Bobi Wine on house arrest.

Bobi Wine and his wife Barbra Kyagulanyi, sought unconditional release from house detention following a week-long siege on his home by security.

The 38-year-old pop star-turned-politician has not been able to leave his home in Magere, Kasangati Town Council after he returned from casting his vote where he ran against long-serving incumbent President Yoweri Museveni.

Ugandan authorities say Bobi Wine can only leave his home on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala, under military escort because they fear his presence in public spaces could provoke revolt.

Rebuking authorities for holding the candidate under house arrest following a disputed election, Justice Michael Elubu said in his ruling that Wine’s home is not an appropriate facility for arrest and noted that authorities should charge him for crimes if he threatens public order.

Lawyer George Musisi said “The judge ordered that the state and its agencies should immediately vacate his property and his right to personal liberty should immediately be reinstated,”

Wine’s friends and supporters celebrated the Judge’s pronouncement, it however remains uncertain if authorities will respect the judge’s where similar orders have been ignored in many cases concerning opposition leaders.

Official results show that Museveni won the election with 58% of the vote while Wine had 34%. Wine insists he has evidence to prove that the military subverted popular will by casting ballots for voters and chasing voters away from polling units thereafter.

Wine has accused Museveni of staging a “coup” in the just concluded election urged his supporters to protest against his loss through nonviolent means.

Museveni has dismissed allegations of vote-rigging, calling the election “the most cheating-free” since independence from Britain in 1962.

The January 14 election was marred by pre-election violence resulting in the vehicular blockade, threats to life, death of over fifty citizens, and disruption of opposition political itinerary, campaign as well as an internet blockade that remained in force for five days. Social media sites remain restricted.

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