Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Why Kenyan teacher has been awarded WHO Global Prize

Joel Gitali Shunza, a teacher from Kenya has been awarded a prestigious World Health Organisation; WHO global prize for his active participation and leadership in the fight against tobacco use mainly among the young folk in Kenya. Mr. Gitali had dedicated his life to helping curb tobacco use.

The award was announced in a statement released by WHO on Friday which marked World No Tobacco Day. The award is presented annually to individuals or organizations in the WHO Regions for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control.

“We are pleased to announce that the World Health Organization has named Kenyan teacher and tobacco control advocate Mr. Joel Shunza Gitali as a winner of this year’s World No Tobacco Day award. Mr. Gitali, who is also chairman of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance, was selected from the 194 WHO member states,” read a statement by the Kenya Tobacco Alliance.

WHO also awarded the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and Fisheries in Kenya for introducing alternative crops in tobacco growing areas.

Speaking after learning about his award, Mr. Gitali said he was thrilled and energized to continue his work to curb tobacco use among Kenyans especially the young people.

“It made me feel energized. I give credit to members of the civil society in Kenya. They have visited all corners of the country fighting tobacco use. They also came in strongly to support my nomination. This is a sign of teamwork and cooperation.”

As a young person, Gitali’s life ambitions came on health became clear, after observing his mother work as a Community Health Volunteer. Gitali.

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“My mother was a CHV trained by UNICEF and used to tell us about the dangers of tobacco. My wife is a nurse and we were staying at Maseno Hospital when we were newly married. I could see how people’s lifestyles were the causes of illnesses,” said Mr. Gitali.

In 1995 Mr. Gitali began a cultural group called Social Liberation and Health promotion club. The club’s mission was to cause a social change and cultural transformation in society to enhance good health. While working as a guidance and counseling teacher, Gitali saw the terrible effects that tobacco had on young people. During those days, tobacco was the commonest form of addiction among school students.

“Students addicted to tobacco and drugs have a problem of not concentrating yet the school environment does not permit them to smoke. Such students become defiant, they steal from others to buy cigarettes. They also sell books so they can’t perform well,” he recalled.

According to statistics by the Ministry of Health, tobacco is the main preventable non-communicable disease cause of death in Kenya. Per year, tobacco leads to the death of 9,000 Kenyans and leaves many very sick in beds waiting for death to strike.

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