August 15th, 2011
I’m Lennie Bazira and as the Kenya Country Director, I oversee all of AMREF’s health development programs in Kenya. Last week, I accompanied AMREF Director General Dr. Teguest Guerma on a visit to one of the many areas of Kenya in which we work: the Turkana district. Located in northwestern Kenya, Turkana is a remote, heat-stricken region and one of the areas most affected by the drought.
Above, watch a newscast from NTV in Nairobi about the situation in Turkana
The Turkana people are nomadic pastoralists. Livestock is their primary source of food and income. With a lack of rain for successive years, rivers have dried up and there is hardly any grass anywhere.
AMREF has been working in Kenya for more than 50 years, seeking long-term solutions to local health challenges. During this crisis, AMREF, together with partners, is also providing immediate assistance to ravaged communities, with one clear goal: to save lives.
In Turkana, AMREF has established camps along the migratory routes, providing food and water in addition to medical care. The medical camp that Dr. Guerma and I visited that day was visited by hundreds of people, their faces and bodies telling stories of hardship and hunger.
Dr. Bazira distributing nutritional supplements
We joined AMREF staff and volunteers in giving out micronutrient-rich food to the weakest community members - children, pregnant and lactating women, and the elderly. AMREF health workers screened and provided treatment for water-borne disease. Countless water treatment tablets were handed out and short demonstrations in basic hygiene were conducted. Ensuring even basic hygiene under these conditions is essential to prevent the further increase in eye infections and the outbreak of diarrheal disease such as cholera.
In the past 50 plus years, AMREF has helped transform lives in many parts of Kenya by providing clean and sustainable sources of water, which have greatly reduced diseases and have sustained livelihoods built on agriculture and livestock breeding. Dr. Guerma promised that AMREF would not only “do all it can” to reduce the current suffering of people in Turkana, but also to develop similar “long-term solutions here so that people will not find themselves in such a dire situation again.”
To follow through on this promise, AMREF has sent one of our specialized outreach teams to address some of the medical complications such as kwashiorkor caused by severe malnutrition. Together with partners, we are continuing to support the distribution of water, food, and nutritional supplements in the affected areas, and have intensified our personal hygiene and sanitation work. As a first step towards determining a longer-term solution for the water shortage, we will commission a hydrological survey of the region.
More than four million Kenyans are threatened by starvation. Across the region, 13 millions lives are at risk. We at AMREF have ramped up our activities to mitigate the immediate and medium-term effects of the drought on ravaged communities. In Kenya alone, we work in 18 affected areas - from the refugee camps on our border with Somalia and the remote northwestern districts to the hard-hit coastal region and suffering slums around Nairobi. We need your support to be able to continue these urgent, life-saving efforts. I urge you to make a donation today.
It will be a long and hard journey but we know that, with your help, we will be able put smiles on the suffering communities of Turkana and Kenya. My team and I are grateful to all of you for your generous support during this crisis.
Country Director Kenya, AMREF