Health Findings on Client and Staff Levels Totals by Congregations Access to Basic Health Care a Sure Way to Fight Poverty
At Good Shepherd Angiya Dispensary in the sleepy village of Homa Bay’s Kawuor Sub- location, nurse Benta Atieno is attending to a six-year-old living with HIV/Aids.
Kevin Oloo (not his real name) is among over 30 children who visit the dispensary monthly for care and treatment at the Comprehensive Care Centre (CCC) facility.
Angiya Dispensary is a Catholic medical institution under Homa Bay Diocese that opened its doors to patients from East Kabuoch location and the adjacent villages 10 years ago. The facility is run by the Medical Mission Sisters.
Benta is a dedicated nurse to her work. She was adopted by the Medical Mission Sisters at age 13 after she lost both of her parents. Benta, a fourth born in a family of five, received sponsorship for her primary and high school education.
Benta later pursued a course in nursing and decided to work with the Medical Mission Sisters. She is grateful to the sisters for seeing her through school and is determined to make a difference in providing her medical skills and knowledge to better the lives of children. “I am giving back to the society. I have benefited so much from the sisters’ goodwill and I am happy to serve my community as a beneficiary,” she says.
This story is evidence how Catholic Sisters intervene to improve and increase accessibility of basic health care and education to the most vulnerable in the community.
The Sisters are inspired in their work by a desire to alleviate poverty through promotion of Early Childhood Development (ECD), health and other social services among communities they serve.
Medical Mission Sisters is one of the over 150 Association of Sisterhood of Kenya (AOSK) member congregations with over 5,000 consecrated women scattered all over the country running various development projects.
According to UNaids 2015 statistics, Orphans due to HIV/AIDS aged between zero to 17 years rage between 540 000 – 810 000 and the number is likely to increase due to inadequate medical care, cultural practices and reluctance to abstain from casual sex among other factors.
Addressing the UN’s on HIV/AIDS in June this year, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer to the UN, noted that as many as 50 percent of HIV-positive children die before their second birthday because they lack access to necessary diagnosis, treatment and medication. He added that the majority of HIV-positive children are not diagnosed until they are four years of age.
Additionally, there is an increase in maternal related deaths due to low quality health facilities and services while mother-to-child transmission is likely to grow as women continue to have children without a HIV test and breast feeding exclusively.
Kenya’s constitution stipulates the right to every child to access basic nutrition, shelter and health care. This right to basic needs is still a dream to many children in Kenya. Alarming poverty levels have been attributed as a hindrance to children from poor backgrounds being able to access even the most basic health care.
Statistics indicate that most children in their early stages of lives are exposed to many risks which in turn affect their growth. High infant mortality rate experienced mostly in some regions shows the poor health conditions that children are exposed to.
The recent efforts by the Kenyan First Lady Ms. Margaret Kenyatta in her ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ to save Kenya’s children and mothers during birth is also an indication that maternal health had been neglected.
The national and devolved governments, and non-governmental institutions such as Unicef, Save the Children and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) among other organizations that work towards improving children’s welfare have shown tremendous effort in changing the situation.
Today the government of Kenya has made it free for women to deliver in any public-funded hospital with free ambulances that cater for mothers and their under-five children.
The mapping exercise reveals the instrumental role the Catholic Church continues to play in the provision of health care to children and women. Most of non-government hospitals that are accessible by the poor are owned and run by the Catholic sisters.
The Sisters’ contributions towards improving, increasing accessibility and affordability of health dates back to the days when the country gained her independence. Their merciful deeds have touched many lives and continue leaving an indelible mark in the lives of many especially children, women and men in the marginalized areas.