The Constitution of Kenya recognizes access to medical care as a basic human right for every Kenyan. Unfortunately, millions of Kenyans cannot afford to pay for quality health services in public or private clinics. Even with public health insurance available to all since 1966, coupled with the heightened campaigns for citizens to register for health cover by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), only 20 to 30% of Kenyans have access to some form of medical insurance. With a population of 45 million plus, it means that about 32 million Kenyans are excluded from quality health care insurance. The rural poor comprise the majority of those not covered by any form of medical insurance, meaning that they have to pay for medical expenses from their meagre savings. In the process, many end up selling all they own to pay hospital bills. This is why TVT organized a free medical camp in Meru County on August 11, 2018. The broad aims of the medical camp were to:
- Make quality health care available for free to the poorest of the poor in a rural Kenya community;
- Identify common eye and other basic health conditions among the participants with a view to devising ways of addressing them;
- Create awareness on how to manage eye and other health conditions that are not curable; and, to
- Provide patients and their relatives with information on terminal illnesses and how how to manage and care for the sick among them.
2. Impact of the Medical Camp
About 1,200 beneficiaries came for diagnosis and treatment at the free medical camp. A team of eye and general medics, public health officers, clinical officers, dieticians, nurses and lay volunteers were available to provide complete medical check-ups and support for all. Participants were screened for general health problems, optical conditions, HIV & Aids, blood pressure and diabetes and were additionally counselled on healthy feeding. In addition to these services there was a food and clothes’ donation room where those in need got to go home with more than medicine. Medics provided beneficiaries with the necessary management of their conditions while referring others for further treatment. The outcome of each of the services provided is described below:
a) Eye screening
This young boy is 14 years old and has a Uveitis condition that has made him lose one eye. The other eye has cataract and Uveitis and recommendation is to operate on him as soon as possible with the hope of saving one of his eyes. TVT is soliciting for donations to save the eye of this boy. If you would like to support this operation to save the eye of this young boy, contact TVT.
Most of those found to have cataracts in their eyes were in the age bracket of 40 year plus. More than 10% of those found to have eye problems, were diagnosed to be requiring eye operations, which is quiet high and therefore requiring intervention from the both county and national governments.
Eye diseases are among the most common illnesses experienced by the poor in rural Kenya due to poor hygiene, sanitation, and poor feeding habits. More than 700 patients turned up for eye screening most of whom were found to suffer from eye cataracts, glaucoma, retinal deficiencies, sight and reading problems, and pediatric ophthalmology. There were two cases of severe uveitis which causes blindness. Of those attended to, 301 were identified as requiring sight enhancement and reading spectacles. All the 700 patients got medication to alleviate eye-related pains while 40 were identified to undergo operations to remove cataracts. Lions Hospital in Nairobi has offered to carry out free surgeries on the 40, but TVT has to mobilize funds to pay for transport to and from Nairobi and also provide them with meals and accommodation.
b) General screening
Even though the main focus of the medical camp was to screen and treat eye-related sicknesses, there are those who turned up with other general illnesses. We were lucky to have a volunteer family Physician/Doctor from the USA who attended to them and referred others to the closest public hospitals for further treatment. It was an act of selfless for the Doctor who had a fractured hand to volunteer to spend the whole day with patients when she was nurturing her own injuries.
c) HIV/Diabetes/blood pressure screening
Many of the beneficiaries were elderly people who wanted to be screened for sugar and blood pressure related sickness. The majority of the young people who showed up wanted to be tested for HIV. The local public health officer was impressed with the high turnout of those wanting to be informed of their HIV status, which is unusual in most rural villages of Kenya. Those who were found to be diabetic or HIV positive were provided with information on how to control and manage their conditions. TVT also took their contacts in order to facilitate future follow up.
This queue was for those waiting to be tested for HIV, Sugar and blood pressure. Those found to be positive were moved to another room for counselling.
Counsellors were on hand to listen to the concerns of the elderly who could not speak in Kiswahili and also give them the directives on how to use the provided medicine. This elderly man wanted to know whether his sugar and blood pressure were ok.
d) Serving People with Disability
In collaboration with the National Council for People with Disabilities (NCPWDs), participants suffering from physical disability were examined for suitable aids. Many required walking shoes, tricycles, crutches and waking canes. Others required immediate medical care and physiotherapy sessions. To fabricate the appliances for this group, TVT requires donations from well-wishers in the tune of Kshs. 400,000 (US$4,000). Efforts will also be made to seek out donors to donate wheelchairs, walking canes, crutches and tricycles which can substantially of the funds TVT has to raise.
e) Healthy Eating Training
TVT had arranged for dieticians to speak to the attending public on the importance of eating healthy foods, and especially why they should avoid over processed foods. The theme for this training was “My Food My Medicine” The turnout was huge and those present were excited to learn that their organic local foods provide body nutrients that prevent many forms of sicknesses. TVT was requested to organize a longer training course covering a broader area, because as participants put it, many people are dying out of ignorance.
f) Donation of food and clothing
Many poor people in rural villages are unable to procure basic food or clothing. Therefore TVT had requested well-wishers to donate clothes and food they did not need. The response was overwhelming to the extent that all those in need went home with some food, clothes and shoes. TVT will continue to mobilize for these types of donations as well as books, utensils and anything else that can be of help to the most needy for future events.
One of the four pillars of Kenya’s Vision 2030 is the provision of affordable health care. This noble intention has not eliminated the category of vulnerable Kenyans able to access affordable health care. This is why TVT in collaboration with her partners will continue to supplement government effort to alleviate the suffering of the poor while educating them on how best they can rely on themselves for healthy living. Special appreciation goes to all individuals and organization that supported the logistics and cost of organizing the medical camp. Thank you to the volunteers who gave their time and energy to provide guidance and support to those who attended the medical camp.