Archives for April 2016

WHO:Kenya, top 10 globally in environmental deaths

The Daily Nation has published a story I wrote about the loss of tree cover in Kenya’s Luo Nyanza region. What this link  does not contain is a sidebar I placed on the story about how Kenya is performing globally as far as deaths related to the environment are concerned.

Turns out Kenya ranks among top ten countries in the world with the most deaths and sicknesses that are linked to abuse of the environment, new data released from the global health body shows.

The World’s Health Organisation (WHO) released data from its Global Health Observatory on March 15, 2016 which shows that Kenya lost 46,060 in 2012 alone to infectious, parasitic, neonatal and nutritional diseases directly linked to the management of— or lack thereof— the environment.

If you are not afraid of numbers, you can take a look at the data from WHO here –> GHO 2016. Just a quick analysis on that spreadsheet and you can already deduce that Kenya is  the fifth country in Africa with such a high number of deaths after Democratic Republic of Congo (163,548), Ethiopia (82,032) Angola (53,081) and Tanzania (48,814). That very year, the very data shows, environmentally related non-communicable diseases and injuries claimed 34,663 lives.

The report, “Preventing disease through healthy environments, a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks” (You can download it here),  analysed all the countries covering more than 100 diseases.

Therein, the diseases linked directly to the environment include respiratory, diarrhoeal and zoonotic infections. These are attributed to the public improper manipulation of the ecosystem to encourage breeding sites for disease causing germs and maximise contacts with animals.

The other reasons are sanitation, availability of clean water, improper disposal waste and household pollution. The report comes a few months after the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014 revealed that more than half (56 per cent) of households use wood as their main source of cooking fuel and that more than 15 per cent of children in Kenya are affected by diarrhoea.

Other deaths are from non-communicable diseases such as cancers and accidents such as drowning and falls into open holes or collapsing buildings. Some of the top global killers listed in the report –Malaria, cancers, heart and diarrhoeal diseases, lower respiratory disease— as linked to the environment are also top ten in Kenya, bringing its healthcare to its knees, according to deaths registered in Kenya’s Civil Registration Department. The latest data, 2014, ranks Malaria as the leading killer in Kenya claiming 22,948 lives. Cancer (21,640) and Tuberculosis (10,986).

Globally, 12.6 million people died in 2012 as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment, representing 23 per cent of all deaths. Children are most affected because the genesis of their lifetime problems start when a pregnant are exposed to factors such as radiation, polluted.

Women registered the most musculoskeletal injuries—related to bones, bones and part of the body that coordinate movement— due to travelling far and wide to fetch water for domestic use.


  1. Living in healthy environments will save lives, and money, as diseases that thrive in unhealthy environments get dehorned.
  2. It is a collaborative effort. The government owes you a sanitation system, but you have to dump your waste properly, minimize on waste. The government owes you water, but its your duty to ensure you take it when its clean.
  3. PREVENTION, PREVENTION. Try as much as you can NOT to get sick. Do not expose your body to harmful stuff when it already has air pollution, stress and all that to deal with. Stay healthy, and that does not need millions of money.


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Why every woman needs a memoir… Why mine will be explosive

I have been in a really dark corner lately. I have not been able to write, sing or sew. I am happy that I am slowly regaining my connection with my art. Blogging helps. So last year, I had the privilege of covering one of the most monumental events in global development history:the 70th General Assembly United Nations in Newyork. When I landed in Newyork, it suddenly hit me that I was Kenyan and that I had nothing to make me stand out as such. Code 254. The marathoners. The motherland of art. So, in the company of one of Kenya’s delegate(an MP), while strolling on the streets, I dropped by a tailoring shop. After haggling and paying a little money, I convinced the owner of the shop to let me use his sewing machine and made me a quick fabric flowers with Kenyan flag colours.

Taken from my Instagram. The flower that represented in Newyork City
Taken from my Instagram. The flower that represented in Newyork City

In the evening, still in the company of this MP, and exhausted from going through documents with such jaw breaking terms, we dropped at a bar. There was karaoke, and with the cowboy hat of the MC I was singing “Honey I’m home” by Shania Twain. Surprised, he asked “so where did you learn to do all these things?”. I really wanted to tell him how I’d stumbled on my arts. The sewing, in the early 90s confined to immobility after a near fatal fall from a tree, and I’d been left to recover near a tailor in remote K’anyidoto in Ndhiwa. The tailor, still my friend to date, started inviting me to sew buttons. Then zippers. Then a whole dress. My music and writing were a tool to overcome the darkness of living through a difficult and an abusive childhood. As I grew up, the tailoring took glamorised stance through reading magazines, watching cable TV and hanging around designers like Rialto’s Lucy Rao.

I chuckle whenever I think about these thing.  Last weekend, I was with one of my Godfathers (I have two), a pastor, and I asked him why he brought me up with this guilt and dread of sex and feminine beauty. The old man freaked out and began reassuring me. “Veroh”, he began “it’s okay if you’re pregnant, I’ll be disappointed but…”  When he learnt that he was far beyond the theme, we burst out laughing. “My methods, no matter how crude, worked and God will reward me for a job well done it’s not easy raising girls”, he said. Then I was like “Yea, old man your methods were crude”. Then we laugh some more. These here,these moments, where you take each other’s hands and walk back to the past from where we draw inspiration, lessons and insight… These are what I live for.

You look back into the past. For insight, joy, lessons. PHOTO/ Sandra Ruong'o
You look back into the past. For insight, joy, lessons. PHOTO/ Sandra Ruong’o

Recollections are important. For a woman, it’s a chance to carry out a post-mortem of your life and really be honest with yourself. Take responsibility for the wrongs done to you or those you’ve done to others. Accept that there are habits that you need to “unlearn”,courage you need to garner to confront your ghosts. That looks like a full time job, right? It is, but you do it too. We all do it. It’s just that maybe you’re not as deliberate about it as I am. Then there is the sentimental bastardy: the man who’s kiss you’ll never forget, the one who ripped your fragile heart out of your chest and put it under his sole… Godamned it!

My late father, Charles Okeyo, and I were great friends. He worked at the flower farms in Naivasha and our schedules during my teenage years were so far apart. I would leave very early in the morning for school before he woke up but we needed to communicate. So we would write on an exercise book on issues like “I’ve left your breakfast on the table” or “yesterday you didn’t spread your bed properly dad, improve” and stuff like that. Later, and as I grew older, the exercise book mutated to a safe place where I would tell my father about my fears, expectations and observations for the day. Looking at the fragments of that torn book now, at 28, I am acutely aware of the careful way in which my uneducated father chose his words to speak to fourteen year old me. 

See each of us has grown through stuff that make us who we are. Some have caused us great anguish and astronomical levels of pain. Like TD Jakes, I choose to see them as “beautiful hurts”.  Without them, I wouldn’t have known who I really am. Without these pains, there wouldn’t be a promotion of some sort in your life. Pain, anger and offences are an inevitable part of life. So should you learn to coalesce it, you can mine them for growth. A caterpillar had to die before a butterfly with all its glorious colour came into being, right?

It's a chance to grow. To confront your ghosts PHOTO /Sandra Ruong'o
It’s a chance to grow. To confront your ghosts.PHOTO /Sandra Ruong’o

So I am following in the footsteps of my mentor cultural analyst and author Dr Joyce Nyairo. I am going to, as she says, “document, document and document” my 28 years. As all artistes gathering the courage to let people learn from it, criticise and have a history. I’m going to go back to the notes my father and I shared. I’ve kept my diaries and the little notes my friends sent me in high school… Recollection. 

This book may not earn me a lot of money (not that I would mind having a heavy bank account)  but the greatest payment would be feedback that someone whose life has been lived in circumstances such as mine would pick a bullet point on going through life. It’s also a historical moment for me,for my readers. I lived through a musical explosion in South Nyanza where “chomeka”  discos became as famous as Kenya’s father of Benga music,Collela. 

I am excited. I hope you will be too.


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John: please don’t let death take me

Dear reader, you know I owe you stories even when they’re typed from a phone like now. So let me tell you what my little brother told me when he asked me for a facial scrub and I responded with “what’s that?”. He said: “Siz, this is the reason you’re still single I swear” The nerve of that little brat. I know. Let me give you the chance to express your disappointment in your miss scribe here. I normally roll my eyes when I am disappointed so you can roll your eyes.

I am those girls. Those ones whose wardrobes have more combat boots than heels. The ones who will show up on a romantic date in jeans. Not because I intended it but because I am that annoyingly informal. Well my friend and baby sister Sandra is a deep contrast of what I am so she had been coming to my rescue. You can go to my Instagram and see how I am putting my best foot forward in make up and dresses thanks to her. 

Be that as I may, there is something you cannot resist about me. It will pull you people to me like a magnet. It will make you overlook every other flaw and make you want to know who this woman is. That is…drum rolls… My dreadlocks! I knoooow right? Come on. Do not be mean. Look at those pictures on my Instagram and tell me you don’t feel excited by those locks. Is there anything sexier than a dark skinned woman with a heavy Luo accent in dreadlocks? It is irresistible! Ask Bob Collynmore what he saw in Wambui. I swear it could have played a part in Wangari Maathai’s Nobel peace prize. But you know something? I wouldn’t even tell you how old my dreadlocks are. John would. Yes John. Readers, please wave to my friend and stylist (yeah I have one too) John Mmata.

Stylist John. Picture/John’s Facebook page

He works at D’s salon based at Uganda House in Nairobi’s Central Business District. I met John in 2014 when I saw another lady whose hair he had styled and gathered courage ask for referral. When I called him up,the courteous way in which he talked to me pulled me to his salon an I have never left. John is polite, professional and most of all very attentive.

I cannot remember when I made deliberate decision to go to the salon. John reminds me. He knows I am a professional woman and needs to look like one even though the gene of spending time before the mirror is unobtrusively present within me. He would call me saying “Verah I know your hair is shaggy, and you’re walking into interviews and in the office looking weird, and you’re spoiling my work because when you will be asked you will say that shaggy hair was styled by me. I have been counting. You were here two months ago so can you please come now I am free and that is an order”. Then it would hit me oh by the way I heard my male colleague remark about the shaggy hair this morning. I’d walk to D’s Salon and start sleeping while seated. He would wake me up an hour later to ask me to take the juice he served. I’d chugallug it and sleep again and wake up an hour later with a washed, treated, conditioned and styled hair. I swear to you if you asked me what wax he uses on it, I wouldn’t know. What spray, oil… I don’t know. John knows what hair products are good for my scalp,how tight my hair should be pulled and what style would hide the forehead the good lord blessed me with.

Now my hair is shaggy now but I can’t have it done because John is incapacitated. For a year I have watched him move from one hospital to another. One time they said it was ulcers. Then it was some jaw-breaking name pancrese. There was diet to be changed. He obeyed all that as he was being directed. He just lost weight and his stomach ache worsened. Now doctors at Kenyatta National Hospital found a solution to his problems. Gallstones. He is scheduled for surgery next week to save his life. He needs Sh100,000(about 1,000USD) for this operation. He should have saved for a rainy day, right? He did. It got depleted within the year of misdiagnosis.

John has a young family. He has big dreams for his business and the only impediment between him and those ambitions is his health. I would like you to save his life. Whatever little you can spare, Sh100 (a dollar) please send it to John.
Below is his number:
Mpesa 0722614337
If you’re abroad and would like to help please use my PayPal: registered to Veronicah Okeyo.

In the meantime, look at his great work

My bohemian self in John’s dreadlocks.
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