The lost Art of Hand Washing

Posted on 2 min read

When the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary in charge of Health Mutahi Kagwe introduced Dr Myriam Sidibe who has a PhD in Public Health focused on hand washing to demonstrate to Kenyans how one should wash their hands, mouths were left open.

How did someone do a full PhD that is focused on hand washing? Worse, it was not from a backstreet University in the dark allies of Nairobi, but the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

 The shock and surprise expressed on social media is a pointer that washing hands is something that is never taken seriously. Many times, you see people walk into public restroom and walk out without touching any water, while those who do, most of them simply sprinkle as little water as possible – perhaps a ceremonial washing.

But times have changed.

Covid-19 is reintroducing the world to hand washing, a practice that has been slowly dying. Even for people with means, washing hands is never taken seriously, especially when you consider the immense benefits it would have.

It is estimated that if people were washing hands with running water and soap, infant mortality would possibly be reduced by half. That’s no mean number, for today 800 children die every day due to diseases that have to do with washing hands.

It is said that one factor that saved the world and greatly improved life expectancy is when people learnt to wash their hands. It did not come easy, especially when humans were not aware of the germ theory of disease. One physician and scientist by the name Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis discovered that lives could be saved through washing of hands, but his discovery led to him being rejected by the medical community and his eventual death. Medics couldn’t stand one of their own who said that the reason women were dying after child delivery was because their hands were dirty.

Even current actions betray our little faith in water and soap when it comes to washing hands. People are fighting to get hand sanitizers, when running water and soap could do a better job. We feel like a sanitizer is a superior product.

It is surprising that while for many years, people died of preventable diseases because they did not wash their hands properly. Yet, the secret of handwashing is very open even in the Bible, when people with bodily discharge are advised to “wash his clothes and bathe his body in running water and will become clean.”

I hope that after this pandemic is over, we shall sustain the passion and continue washing hands.

Watch Dr Myriam Sidibe TED talk On Washing Hands


Living in the Age of Corona Virus

Posted on 1 min read

How are we to live in the times of the Corona Virus?

The same way we have lived in the age of road accidents, landslides, mercury in sugar, aflatoxins, HIV, malaria, collapsing classrooms and other day to day disasters that faced us in 2019 and prior.

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the Covid-19 jumped from bats to humans in Wuhan, was manufactured in the lab, or whichever theory of its origin you chose to believe: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways.

If we have had all these other threats over years, why should we be worried of Corona Virus? We already knew that cancer will kill 0.06% of all Kenyans this year, and at worst, Corona would do a similar thing. What I am trying to say here is that your death is certain, only a matter of when.

Therefore, let Corona Virus disease find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. Covid-19 may break our bodies, but it need not dominate our minds.

Adapted from C.S Lewis “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948)


The Problem of Fake News

Posted on 4 min read

Was the world ready for the age where everybody would be a media outlet?

Technology has made it easy for anybody to reach a mass audience. A single social media or website post from an obscure source can go viral and influence the world in large scale. Consequently, everybody is always receiving information from multiple sources, and is always faced with the task of sifting through myriads of posts to separate truth from falsehood.

Tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and others are now working to solve this problem of disinformation, but as someone recently observed, fake news is not a tech problem, but an information problem. Dealing with it will thus involve more than simply adding a piece of code in today’s tech, and could require a lot of societal transformation.

The Fear of Giving Everyone a Voice

It is not the first-time disinformation is threatening civilizations. Christianity faced the same crisis when the Bible was translated from Latin to other languages which any person could read and understand. The church had resisted the move in the fear that giving everybody a Bible would result to skewed interpretations and rise of cults that would crop up everywhere.

That is exactly what happened. Today, cults after cult seem to spread all over the world with the educated being equally prone to the disinformation as the non educated. It is like half of Christianity today is fake news.

This is not a new problem. Disinformation has always existed, only that it does not go by the name fake news. Many times, we call it lies, falsehood, or even deception.

The Influential Teacher

Even in day to day conversations, a certain level of disinformation exists. Earlier in the year I had a chance to meet a teacher in a rural Kenyan set up and discuss various issue such as politics, locust invasion and education.

One thing you need to understand about teachers is that they are one of the most influential people in the society. Educated, with a captive audience, and evenly distributed throughout the country, it is said that one only needs to win teachers in order to win an election. They will do the campaign for you.

But it was the discussion with the teacher that opened my eyes to know that fake news is not a modern-day tech problem, but something that has been with human beings for ages. I disagreed with many thigs things he said about politics and locust invasion because they were outright lies. Yet, he was confident of what he was saying.

What this influential teacher needed was access to a platform and he would have the media to reach more people with information, and we would all be talking about fake news.

Communities Prone to Disinformation

Why does it appear that fake news is winning compared to truth? In Kenya, it could be a cultural problem.

There are some societies where telling the truth is expected. I grew up in one. It is not really about truth, but a general acceptance that it is very evil to tell lies that hurts someone else. Generally, you would not expect to find normal people openly spreading false information.

Unfortunately, this naïve habit is reflected in people’s expectations when both online and offline. It is the reason why politicians are able to deceive many people with very obvious lies. Very few people are able to pick up such lies.

It could also be the reason why we have a big number of people who believe that everything they read on the internet is true. All the news sources are treated equal, and the most sensational ones receive the highest traffic. Even when content is labelled satire or is served by questionable tabloids, people still end up believing the stories they want to believe. Check the reaction that www.postamate.com gets on social media.

Fueling the Fake Fire

Human beings have a great love for solving mysteries, new information, and being the ones to break news. Perhaps, it is why conspiracies theories always find an audience.

We also like the information that confirms what we believe, whether it is true or false. This is why we quickly share news that are aligned with what we want to be true, irrespective of whether the information is factual or not. If you do not like person X, you will believe anything negative about X, and question anything positive about X.

The problem with fake news or false information is that it receives a lifeline from the audience and goes viral. Friends know it is false. Enemies want it to be the true. Others will share maybe because it is funny. Where it is also shared matters.

WhatsApp groups form a perfect echo chamber where information is shared among like minded people, further amplifying the effect of fake news. The more fake information is shared, the more it is believed.

Fake news is not short term problem.


Internet Addiction

Posted on 2 min read

The internet is an important platform for today’s communication; that is why you are able to read this article. However, just like any other good thing, the internet is prone to abuse through such things as fueling disinformation, cyber-attacks, online bullying, health issues and even internet addiction.

One common problem among those is the problem of internet addiction. This is where one has an online-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.

The internet addiction problem is very similar to gambling addiction or drug addiction that occurs in real life. Drugs have active components that make one addicted to them, be it alcohol, nicotine or cocaine. However, no one starts using drugs to get addicted, but to feel normal.

This is the same case with the internet. No one sets out to get addicted, but the continued use leads to dependency and one has to keep using the internet to sustain the feeling. This could be for entertainment, creating a sense of belonging in online community, or even killing time. One reason for addiction is the psychology behind the design of the internet tools that we use today that are meant to capture attention for the longest time possible. There are other predisposing factors such as anxiety and depression, environmental factors such as unchecked access to the internet, or even genetics.

Signs of Internet Addiction

Is your internet use a habit or an addiction? A habit is not a problem, but an addiction is. Here are signs that you could be a problem with addiction.

  • Increasing or too much time spent online
  • Time management problems due to unhealthy use of the internet
  • Difficulty in doing day to day activities such as work or studying.
  • Health problems such as lack of sleep
  • Dependence on online relationships more than the physical ones
  • Presence of withdrawal symptoms when not using the internet

Most people who are addicted to the internet usually think they are not, and even become defensive when one suggests that they need to reduce on their online activities. Perhaps, the best thing one can do is to seek help if you think you are addicted. Here are a few steps you can take of you want to take charge of your time online.

  • Make deliberate effort to engage with people offline.
  • Monitor the amount of time you spend online. Modern smartphones and computers have tools to do that.
  • Get rid of triggers that lead you to the internet. This could be something like the presence of Apps or notification in your phone.
  • Learn to deal with boredom in a different way. Get creative ways to deal with boredom away from the internet.


Why I will be Running for the Bibleless in 2020

Posted on 3 min read

As Kenyans, we have a propensity of solving many things by running. We run to school, run from hunger, run for money and run from responsibilities. We run for offices, run campaigns, run programs and activities at work, and even have national season of running noses. This could explain why running is such an economic activity in Kenya.

But there is a section of Kenya that never runs. There are Kenyans who simply refuse to run for anything. They will leisurely jaywalk across a highway as an 18-wheeler approaches. They confidently walk in the rain without an umbrella because they do not want to break the do-not-run code.

I suspect these are the people who have hidden only one verse in their hearts. Actually, half a verse, Proverbs 28: 1a which says that the wicked run when no one is chasing them. They refuse to run because there is no one chasing them and they are not wicked people.

But I am here not to talk about the running Kenyans and the runless Kenyans, but about running for the Bibleless. On 14th March 2020, Bible Translation and Literacy has organized the 2020 Run for the Bibleless to support BTL’s work and creating awareness about BTL’s mission of facilitating Bible translation and sustainable literacy among small language groups in Kenya and beyond.

Why it Matters

Why do we need the Bible translated into all the different languages that exist in Kenya? Why can’t all the people just learn some Swahili and the problem will be solved?

The truth is that people need literature in their heart language. It is the language that speaks to their heart, not jut to their mind. This is the reason why people think in one language and speak in another, because their thoughts process better in a certain language.

The language we use also informs other factors. In my home village, speaking Swahili would mark you as a stranger or an outsider, even if you belong. It does not matter that everyone understands Swahili. English would make it worse. People have a language for each context.

This is why we need to ensure that people get the Bible in a language that they are comfortable with. BTL is working to achieve this, and Run for the Bibleless 2020 is aimed at raising money for this course.

Why the Bibleful Should Run

I am urging the Bibleful to run for the Bibleless because it is important, but also because it is good for the Bibleful to run.

As I sit in the office this morning, I am reminded of the million dangers of a sedentary lifestyle that I have been forced to adopt by economic forces. I have daily watched my weight go to undesirable levels as some fats accumulate and the 6 pack disappear into one glorious pack. My weekly walk of 2.15 km carrying a 10 kg kid is becoming unsustainable. My 1.5 km run every day has slowed down to a walk.

But I know that I am not alone. I walk around in Nairobi and see that men lost interest in keeping fit as soon as we stopped relying on hunting and gathering. Even the threat of lifestyle diseases does not move many to action, maybe because there is no set date when the disease will strike.

Perhaps, you can start by planning to participate in the Run for the Bibleless and you will have a reason to run not because someone is chasing after you, but because you are running for your life, and for the eternal life of other people. Let the Bibleful run; for self and for the Bibleless.

How to participate

  1. If you can run, register and run.
  2. If you can walk, register and walk.
  3. If you do not run, register and watch.
  4. If you do not want to run, support the course.

We are all on the run.


Sudden Death

Posted on 3 min read

“You and I hear of sudden deaths and yet we imagine we shall not die suddenly.” – C.H. Spurgeon.

Death by Many Names

There are many euphemisms for death:

To pass away, pass on, lose one’s life, breathe one’s last, meet one’s end, meet one’s death, lay down one’s life, go the way of all flesh, go to one’s last resting place, go to meet one’s maker, cross the great divide, slip away, depart this life, give up the ghost, kick the bucket, croak, buy it, turn up one’s toes, cash in one’s chips, bite the big one, check out, buy the farm, blink for an exceptionally long period…..

Death by Fear of Death

It is ironic that we live life as if death is too far away, yet it is the most certain thing that we are sure will come to us; just a matter of time. It could be tomorrow or 67 years from tomorrow, but death is more certain than taxes.

And the fear of death paralyzes. Although young people may not be worried about dying a slow painful death due to multiple organ failure at the age of 97 years, they are very conscious of the fact that they can die at any moment in a way that they may not anticipate.

It could be a terrorist attack, a blood clot, a road accident, a violent robbery, or even an attack by wild animals. I have seen great people meet their sudden deaths in such incidences. My college classmate was stabbed to death. Two high school classmates have died in the hands of Al Shabaab.  Two primary schoolmates died in an air crash. A close friend in campus perished in a road accident while another dear friend suffered a blood clot and was gone in a short time. I have heard of somebody who was stung to death by bees.

Why we Fear Sudden Death

Even non-sudden death is not amusing. If someone dies at 102 years, we still mourn them and feel the emptiness that comes with it if we were close to them. But a sudden death has zero warnings and hits harder.

We are afraid of what will become of our families. We are worried about how death will occur. We are afraid of so many things. I do not think anybody gets worried about what they will miss once they are gone, but just the emptiness and nothingness of being no more.

As human beings, we are usually not ready for death.

We are also afraid of death because we rarely see death in life. A few years ago, life expectancy was very short and anybody who lived to be 40 years old had witnessed so many deaths. It is estimated that the life expectancy was around 30 years in the year 1800. Today, modern medicine and other factors have made death rare.

Now that You will eventually Die…

You need to make sense of the life that you are living so that when death comes, you will be set. Ask yourself these questions, because tomorrow it might be you.

  1. What’s your origin? Understanding how we got here will help us put our life in a way that is consistent with our origin. Were you created by a divine being? Are you a product of a random thoughtless gathering of atoms? Are you a former goat that got a second chance in life?
  2. The meaning of life. Where do you derive this from? What’s your purpose here on earth? Are you here to accomplish something, or simply exist with no objective? Do toys, education, and money you acquire in life all work together towards a certain end?
  3. What informs your moral values? Is evil, stealing, murder, corruption, and all vices acceptable, or there is a fixed code of conduct that we must adhere to?
  4. What is your destiny? When you die, will something follow after that, or you will rot and that will mark a cold end, brutal end?

A thousand Deaths

As Shakespeare said, ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.’ Be brave and ask yourself those questions.


Do you think chickens have a fear of sudden death?