THE LAST MILE: REACHING MOTHERS AND BABIES IN THE REMOTEST AREAS
MAR has been supporting for years the maternal health of women in the remote Kokuselei Valley, in Turkana, northeast Kenya. Turkana is an isolated, arid, semi-desert region that lacks the most basic infrastructure and services. Its 800,000 inhabitants belong to the Turkana tribe and are semi-nomadic shepherds who live in endemic poverty. The region has been suffering from recurring droughts, leading to loss of livelihood assets and widespread food insecurity. The maternal mortality rate in Kenya is among the highest in the world and the level of isolation and poverty of Turkana makes women and children there particularly vulnerable.
The Missionary Community of Saint Paul Apostle (MCSPA) has worked in Turkana since 1961 and is the only organization carrying out community-based development programs in the area. It serves 150,000 people in a 10,000 km2 extension. MAR’s assistance to MCSPA has grown over the years in an effort to respond to the needs of the community.
Through grants provided by MAR, MCSPA launched a mobile health clinic to bring care from the main dispensary to seven remote outposts, reaching over 180 expectant mothers and lactating women and over 150 babies who would otherwise not have access to care. MAR has also sponsored a program to train and deploy village health promoters located in each of the settlements to provide health, nutrition and hygiene education to mothers on an ongoing basis.
In an effort to strengthen the health infrastructure, MAR has also financed the construction of housing for healthcare workers and volunteers, and the building of a much-needed extension to the Kokuselei dispensary.
In addition to supporting maternal health, MAR has provided support to address other needs in the community. In 2013 and 2014 the region has struck with extreme drought, MAR helped MCSPA reduce levels of malnutrition through the provision of emergency food aid to vulnerable families in targeted villages over a three month period. Another vital need is access to water and sanitation. Eighty percent of the population lacks acceptable access to clean water, and water-borne diseases are widespread. Generous financial support from the ‘Elisabeth et Amelie Fund’ has enabled MCSPA to enhance access to water for domestic consumption and for small-scale agricultural use, as well as developing improved sanitation measures. Because education and literacy levels are low, especially among women, and thanks to the support of the Rotary Club Hamburg-Bergedorf, MAR facilitated scholarships for eight local girls to attend secondary school.
To equip MCSPA with tools to continue its important work in the future, MAR commissioned a technical expert in health and development to work with the team in Kokuselei to help them evaluate their programs and operations, identify gaps and strengthen their future planning and programming.
Eleni, Manager of the Kokuselei mission, on MCSPA’s relationship with MAR:
Thank you very much for working together with us in so many aspects, you are really contributing to a deep change in Turkana. We hope we can continue to work together for many years. You are our angels in Brussels!