IRC Launches Health Care Initiative Aimed at Mothers and Children in Northwest Kenya
“The IRC will upgrade health facilities, train health staff, establish community-based health services and encourage communities—especially mothers and those with children under five—to access these services,” says Dr. Vincent Kahi, IRC’s health coordinator in Kenya.
The IRC will work closely with the Kenyan government, as well as with established partners such as the Catholic Diocese of Lowdar and the Africa Inland Church, to achieve the project’s goals.
Turkana is one still of the poorest areas of Kenya. The climate is harsh, with high temperatures and erratic rainfall. Frequent droughts have left inhabitants dependent on food aid. Malnutrition rates are estimated to be around 22 percent, leaving children in particular too weak to fight off illness.
Consequently, many children die from preventable or treatable illnesses. Surveys show 62 percent of deaths among children under five are traced to fever and malaria, 28 percent to cough and difficult breathing, 10 percent to diarrhea.
In addition, about 80 percent of Turkana’s population is nomadic, and many families find accessing health care difficult because of their mobile lifestyle. The problem is compounded by a severe shortage of facilities and qualified health professionals, as well as cultural beliefs that prevent women from seeking professional help.
The IRC will bring health care closer to the communities by arranging for trained community health workers to travel with them as they migrate. These health workers hope to educate families against harmful practices that affect the health of mothers and children—drinking water from unhygienic sources, for example, or failing to breastfeed exclusively.
“In improving access to health services, we will enhance the health status of women and children and so reduce the household costs associated with illness,” explains Dr. Kahi. “Children will be healthy enough to access education and women will be able to take part in income-generating activities.”
The IRC has been providing essential services for refugees and communities in Kenya since 1992, including water, sanitation and protection in Greater Turkana (including Kakuma refugee camp), Trans Nzoia District in western Kenya and in the capital, Nairobi.
This project is being funded by the European Commission.