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Growing Alarm in Kenya as Number of Suicides Rise

Almost 500 people are reported to have killed themselves in the three months to June this year, more than the whole of 2020, according to the Kenyan police. The youngest person to take their life was nine years old; the oldest 76. The 483 deaths recorded during the period were a marked increase on the annual average of about 320 cases, the Ministry of Health reported. George Kinoti, who heads the police directorate of criminal investigations, said: “We have never recorded such a high number of suicides before and this is not only alarming but calls for urgent remedial measures.” Last year the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) said 1,442 Kenyans attempted suicide between 2015 and 2018, which it said were conservative figures as only a fraction of cases were reported. The organisation linked the rise in cases to mental ill-health caused by a breakdown in socio-economic safeguards, saying it was the “last resort and path of escape for individuals with unaddressed mental health needs”. Section 226 of Kenya’s penal code says “any person who attempts to kill himself [sic] is guilty of a misdemeanour”, which the human rights body likened to “re-victimisation of already vulnerable victims” while placing those already socially and economically vulnerable people at even greater disadvantage.