Rural healthcare outreach during the rainy season

October 8, 2013

Derrick Lowoto


After responding to a September 7th, 2009 NY Times article by Jeffrey Gettleman, which highlighted the life threatening impact of the drought in Northern Kenya, Real Medicine Foundation coordinated a supply chain for water and food aid, and medical support to the region. We were able to provide a 4-week supply of food and water to 4,500 persons in severely drought affected regions of Turkana, Kenya where it had not rained in 4 years.

Since December of 2009, RMF has had a long term partnership with Share International supporting the only clinic in Lodwar, Turkana’s capital, with a population of almost 30,000 as well as expanding medical outreach programs and mobile clinics, and food and water aid where needed. Funding from Medical Mission International (MMI) made it possible to significantly enlarge this program at the beginning of 2010.

In addition to RMF’s long term support of the Lodwar Clinic, we expanded our medical outreach programs and the frequency of our mobile clinics this past year, and are now reaching 33 villages and a target population of 79,800. An average of 1,300 patients is seen by the mobile clinic teams every month, and over 300 patients per month at the permanent clinic in Lodwar.

Project Objectives: 

  • Provide Medicines and Medical supplies to meet the needs of the targeted population
  • Increase Mobile/Outreach Clinics in the remote villages
  • Provide Medical Services at the Health Facility in Lodwar Town:
  • Supporting the physical/medical needs of the targeted population
  • Home visiting
  • Referrals of patients needing advanced care to tertiary care hospital, and HIV and TB government clinics
  • Teaching about and providing nutritious food

Summary of RMF/MMI-sponsored activities carried out during the reporting period under each project objective:

  • Outreach clinics were conducted in the rural villages this second quarter.
  • Home visits were made mostly within the Lodwar area.
  • Patient referrals
  • Public health education during clinic sessions
  • Payment of staff salaries
  • Laboratory Services continue
  • Medical fees of some patients whom we referred for treatment to tertiary health facilities were paid for by RMF funds; patients who otherwise could not have afforded this necessary care.
  • Staff attended training workshops.

Results and/or accomplishments achieved during this reporting period:

  • During the second quarter of 2013 a total of 5,279 patients were treated at the stationary and outreach clinics.
  • A total of 30 mobile outreach clinics were conducted in the rural villages this second quarter.
  • A total of 12 home visits were completed, mostly within Lodwar.
  • A total of 13 referrals were made including transferring patients from rural villages to health facilities for further management and treatment.
  • Public health teaching is performed at the beginning of every clinic day for the patients who arrive early and individual teaching is provided on specific cases in the course of the patients’ treatment.
  • Two pharmaceutical purchases were made for the program in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Staff salaries were paid.
  • Maintenance was done on the mobile clinic vehicle including one major repair and several minor ones.
  • Laboratory services were offered, and attendance increased at the Lodwar Clinic
  • Medical fees for some of the patients that were referred for treatment to other tertiary health facilities were paid. 
  • This quarter two staff members attended HIV/AIDS management, testing and counseling training sessions.

Number served/number of direct project beneficiaries:

A total of 5,279 patients were treated and 6,125 cases treated during this quarter.

Success stories or project highlights:

By Derrick Lowoto

The rainy season is traditionally valued by the people of Turkanaland because there is an increase of milk production in their animals, which benefits the population. However, there are also negative consequences to the rainy season because malaria, diarrhea and respiratory problems dramatically increase. This challenges healthcare providers in terms of maintaining medicine stocks and other logistics in order to meet the higher amount of medical needs that arise. Flooding also causes logistic problems for transportation and clinic operations and staff often ends up working extra hours to accommodate.

RMF/MMI funding has assured the consistent availability of antibiotics and antimalarials as well as the provision of laboratory services to test for common diseases and ensure proper treatment. People in most rural villages otherwise have nothing with which to treat these diseases except traditional herbs. This problem has been compounded by a lack of health facilities in the rural villages as the only ones available are many kilometers away and poorly equipped.

Through RMF/MMI funding patients can either be cared for in their home community or transferred to Lodwar for care when critically ill. In severe cases, they can be referred to a tertiary hospital for further treatment. The people here are grateful for the RMF support that has alleviated health problems among communities living in Turkanaland.            

Due to flooding, the medical staff has to wait for several hours before they can use the road to reach a rural village to provide care.

Patients waiting to be seen in an outreach clinic. Malaria dramatically increases during the rainy season and many people do not own mosquito nets.

Patients from Lomopus village are educated about protection against mosquitoes.  They are taught the benefits of using mosquito nets and each household is encouraged to buy nets since malaria is now the most prevalent disease risk in the area.

In Nangacha village patients receive public health teaching about nutrition. They are given information about nutrients in local foods because malnutrition is prevalent in Turkanaland and in some cases solutions can be found among foods in the local marketplace.  Regular teaching has really helped and cases of malnutrition are declining.

Health education has significantly helped the rural population.  The program teaches a range of topics that include pharmacy counseling on the proper use of medicine and good hygiene  when water is scarce. Since it is rare to get clean water in the rural villages, our education program advocates boiling water and using other forms of water treatment available. This training program has reduced the water-related cases of illness that used to be common.  Good nutrition is also part of our regular public health teaching and focuses on food that is found locally and is part of the villagers’ regular diet. Villagers have learned which foods are most nutritious and mothers are able to use this information when selecting the best foods for their children.