Where outreach is the most basic source of healthcare

Wednesday 25 September 2019

By Jeckonia Otieno

A cart carrying five children and a woman stops under a thorny shurb at El Yunis, some 40 kilometres north of Wajir Town

Pulling it are two donkeys directed by Jimale Dakane. They have taken three thours to cover a 15km didtance from their village to arrive here for the much needed health services.

The 38 year old's wife and two twin children have been unwell and his only hope is this health outreach programme which pitches camp here every two weeks. Without this, he would be forced to hire a taxi all the way to Wajir County Refferal Hospital which would have cost him Sh4,000.

The refferal hospital is his nearest facility.

"I am lucky that this health outreach programme has been coming here every fortnight because without this, I would have had to spend money to go to Wajir," Says Dakane.

On examination at the outreach programme, the twin children are found undenourished and have to be put on nutrition suppliments. 

"The twins were born preterm and had to stay at the Wajir County Refferal Hospital for months," Dakane says.

At the outreach which ismaily supported by humanitarian organisation 'Save The Children', locals access various health services which they would otherwise have to travel long distances for.

 simple Interventions

 

Two health workers are usually available for the outreach- a nutritionist and a nurse. Mobilisation of the comunity level is however done by community health assistants. Thus for this particular outreach, over 150 locals have been attended to. The nutritionist checks on the ststus of the children while the nurse looks at general health of all who present themselves.

Using simple interventions, some services offered mainly include general checkup by the nurse who determines whether there is need for further medical diagnosis which may include general checkup by the nurse who determines whether there is need for futher medical diagnosis which may require a referrral. Also offered are immunization  services for children. Reproductive health education and services are also offered.

"Every person who comes is checked, starting with children,n women and finally men," says Aden Abdulahhi of Save the Children's Wajir office. 

He terms the outreaches as the Level One of healthcare in Kenya. They offer other essential services like de-worming, diarrhea treatment, fever management and will soon roll out family planning. 

Some of the conditions that require urgent action include treatment for acute malnutrition which currently faces more than 42,000 children in Wajir, according to a survey done by the county government and Save The Children.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) warns that 2.5 million people risk famine if it does not rain in October. This will result in a dire health sistuation.

But health provision is hampered by various factors which makes such interventions necessary. County director of health, Dr Dahir Somow, says the county is vast and with a poor access network, provision of health services is negatively impacted. 

"Serving the nomadic community is challanging because it is difficult to track them," he says.

This article was first published on 21st September 2019 in the Saturday Standard.