funeralThe demise is announced on diaspora media outlets and by word of mouth, another Kenyan has
perished taken out by a preventable calamity. The astounding fact is that 73% of Kenyan deaths in
diaspora are preventable. Of the 27% of the deaths that cannot be prevented, life can be prolonged and
made more bearable in 16% of the cases by simple lifestyle changes. While these statistics do not differ
very much with the national average, compared to our population ratio it is obvious that far too many
Kenyans are dying futile deaths in this country. We have the tendency to believe that death cannot
happen to us or to our families but recent events have proven us wrong again and that our complacency
is taking a mournful toll on us.
The familiar routine begins yet again. Family and friends frantically scramble to gather whomever they
can find for support and fundraising events. Phone contacts and bank accounts are given out for the
cause. If one has no family or friends the authorities sweep the community looking for anyone who may
know the deceased. The biggest ordeal is trying to locate family members in Kenya for someone who is
not well known in the diaspora. For those with family, the family decides whether to send the body back
home or to bury it here. A difficult and emotional decision indeed. Some members may feel that burying
a person here is abandoning and discarding a fellow Kenyan in a foreign and strange land and like
Joseph’s conviction they believe that all bones must be returned to the motherland to rest. Those with
opposing views may argue that the deceased came here alive and should not go back dead, furthermore
they have no burial plot in Kenya and maybe their relationship with family back home is not what it used
to be before they left. They could also contend that the family here is not going back and would like the
privilege of visiting the grave site every now and then. Repatriating the body to Kenya and the
associated funeral costs are staggering. So cremation or burying a person in diaspora may seem like
interning a person on the cheap for some, but the truth is that some of the deceased have their
immediate families here or the collected money cannot meet repatriation expenses.
In most cases the difficulties of rallying people to fundraising functions is that neither the designated
solicitors nor the deceased ever participated in any other person’s social or fundraising events. So when
people are called to task they are likely to wonder whether the caller or the deceased would even have
shown up if the tables were turned. Still for humanities sake people offer their emotional support and
reluctantly donate what they can.
Time and space will not allow me to elaborate how preventable deaths can be averted. But in more
ways than one we have become quite complacent with our health and safety. A small amount of
caution and vigilance goes a long way in determining whether we survive or perish. For example if you
cannot swim do not get in the deep end of a pool or in a volatile ocean for heaven’s sake. The leading
cause of preventable deaths for Kenyans in the diaspora is motor vehicle accidents some involving
alcohol use. The simple mantra of slowdown, don’t drink and drive and obey all traffic laws even the
ones that seem stupid would reduce fatal tragedies in this category by at least 43%. Homicides is the
second leading cause of death in the diaspora. This is closely related to lifestyles and relationships. Most
homicides are committed by people known to the victim. Be wise about your acquaintances. Staying
away from substance abuse and other criminal activities will dramatically reduce the chances of being
killed. In relationships, any sign of domestic violence by either gender must be taken very seriously. The
only options are to work it out or leave. The notion of fake love for status papers must be discarded
entirely. Trying to leave after papers arrive triggers an emotional roll coaster in men and if kids are
present it could be fatal. Suicide is the third leading cause of preventable death in the diaspora and is
caused mostly by stress, loneliness and depression. No person is an island to themselves therefore you
should let the community know you exist. Attend and participate in social events that you currently
ignore. It is also important to be active in at least one social group, Kenyan or not. Connect with one
trusted person you can confide in your struggles and aspirations. If you are still overwhelmed you can
call the Crisis Call Center a suicide prevention hot line at 1-800 273 8255 that is available 24 hours a day.
Know that some issues may require professional help and where to turn if that is needed.
It is the responsibility of parents to safeguard their children. Busy schedules are unacceptable excuses
when it comes to our children. Water is deadly where small children are lurking but it is not the only
hazard around the home. Remove all dangerous materials such as plastic bags, chemicals, matches, guns
etc. from their sight and reach. Block electric outlets whenever possible. We can setup a good example
for our children by taking up healthy habits such as ceasing to smoke, reduction in excessive alcohol
consumption, regular exercise, good eating and sleeping habits which can avert or reduce such illness as
degenerative bone diseases, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and even some forms of cancer. Also good
habits translate into reduced stress and a vibrant lifestyle. Finally we can never go wrong with a
balanced spiritual awareness.
When death does occurs those left behind are put in a confused and financially draining situation. While
emotional and financial support is critical at that moment, the frantic and desperate fundraising events
must stop. Affordable genuine life insurance policies are available and Kenyans in the diaspora who are
in the insurance brokerage business can help. Some policies will take care of the funeral expenses and
families for years if they are well managed. It is important also to write a Will and wishes and secure
them with someone who has the authority to implement them just in case. This spares the family the
hustles of decision making process at a stressful time when in reality they should be grieving.
In conclusion we cannot afford to be complacent with our safety and health issues. We must be
constantly vigilant of our surroundings, alert on the roads, observant in our relationships and wary of
our acquaintances. It is good to be known. We must avoid isolationism attitudes that create loneliness
by involving ourselves with some form of community or social groups. Stigma aside we must never shy
away from professional help if that will save our lives. Transforming bad habits into good habits will
translate into reduced stress, healthy and vibrant lifestyles. And should death occur we can be assured
that our families are secured financially by our life insurance policies and spared difficult decisions by
our wills and wishes. The knowledge that the departed had a sound spiritual consciousness gives those
left behind much needed peace and comfort. Please make it a point to be safe, healthy and alive today.

By Yosef Kariuki:Diaspora Messenger contributor

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