May 26, 2017
Kenya: Fighting Malnutrition In Rural Communities
An estimated 18,000 people inject heroin in Kenya, which has significantly increased the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis. Roughly 36% of the drug users in Nairobi are infected with HIV and 42% with Hepatitis C. Drug use is often stigmatized in Kenya, leading users unable to access adequate healthcare. Without regular check ups and clean needles, this population is highly vulnerable to becoming infected with diseases. Doctors of the World has been working on harm reduction in Kenya since 2012.
Our teams provide vaccinations, clean needles, psychological support and health education workshops to highlight the risks associated with intravenous drug use. Alongside our work on the ground, Doctors of the World also works with institutions on the development of national policies that will increase harm reduction in the long term. We support the Kenyan government with health training, awareness building workshops, and increasing the availability of substitution treatments.
On February 10th, 2017 the Kenyan government declared a state of emergency due to drought, with an estimated 4 million people facing severe food shortages. The majority of these communities lie in rural areas of Kenya, such as Isiolo County, where lower than average amounts of rainfall have seriously affected agriculture and food productivity.
Since 2017, we have been working in the rural regions of Kenya in response to the severe drought conditions the country is experiencing. In Isiolo county we have been screening for and treating malnutrition whilst operating out of mobile health units in order to reach the most remote villages.
We are also focusing our treatment efforts on pregnant women and children under 5. Muna, our community health nurse who has been working with Doctors of the World in Isiolo County Hospital, has told us stories of people walking several days to receive medical attention – and many don’t make it. Often pregnant women are the hardest hit by malnutrition. As Muna was told: “When a woman is pregnant, they say her grave is open.”
Our UK colleague, Lucy Coley, who recently visited our program in Kenya, described our current outreach activities: “We are working in two very small villages, Ngaredare and Gotu, where our team does mass screenings to identify and treat malnourished children and pregnant women. Gotu is 80km away from the nearest health facility, and there are no paved roads or vehicles here. Without Doctors of the World bringing support into these communities, these people would simply not receive any assistance.”
In Kenya, we aim to prevent further deterioration in people’s health in severely drought affected areas of Isiolo County, while at the same time monitoring and responding to any new outbreaks of malnutrition. As Lucy describes, “We’ve hired a brilliant team of doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and community health workers – both Kenyan and international volunteers – who are now on the ground conducting outreach in Isiolo.”