A race to the hospital
Families can often face difficulties in taking their children for treatment, something which mothers in West Pokot, Kenya, know about all too well. We are proud to share our Kenya series, focusing on our nutrition success stories from West Pokot.
Jan 15 2014
Sitting in the back of an Action Against Hunger car, young mother Cheposokol clutches her baby boy tight and holds his head protectively as they speed along the bumpy pot-holed road.
One hour ago Cheposokol arrived at the Lomut health centre in West Pokot, Kenya, with one-year-old Pkorir. She walked from her village in the mountains down the long and winding road for over seven hours to get to the centre.
Her baby has been unwell for a couple of months, with a fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. His face and body are very swollen and he is in a lot of pain. Tragically, Cheposokol had another child, a two-year-old girl called Cherimo, who had similar symptoms to Pkorir but sadly died three weeks ago.
Cheposokol, 25, had used traditional herbs to try and treat her daughter, but they had not worked and she watched her grow sicker and sicker until it was too late. Now, seeing her baby boy become ill with the same problem, she decided to visit a doctor instead and so set off on the long walk to find one.
“My children don’t have enough to eat,” explains Cheposokol. “My husband does not support the family and so I have to look after my children and work in the field to get money for food. But it is difficult for me especially when there are not many crops.”
As soon as the Action Against Hunger team saw little Pkorir they suspected he was malnourished and tests confirmed that he was suffering from severe acute malnutrition, which can be deadly if left untreated. As little Pkorir was in such a bad state and had so many accompanying health complications, the mother and baby were immediately rushed to the hospital in Sigor in Action Against Hunger’s car for emergency treatment.
Overcoming local barriers to access
Cultural practices can sometimes be a barrier for mothers in West Pokot to access professional treatment for their malnourished children. Like Cheposokol, sometimes families rely on traditional herbs and medicines and so do not take their children to the health centre for the life-saving treatment they need.
Action Against Hunger has formed a trained and active network of community health volunteers who are slowly trying to change cultural attitudes and advise communities of the health services that are available for their families.
The platform for a full recovery
Back in Sigor hospital, the doctor believes that Pkorir is going to be okay. He will stay in hospital with his mother for a few weeks, until he has fully recovered and then he will be referred to an outpatient programme to continue his treatment at home in the community.
“I am deeply sad that my other child was not treated here,” says Cheposokol. “Now that I know about this place I will make sure that other mothers in my village will bring their children here if they have the same problem.”
By making more communities and families aware of malnutrition and the help that is available, Action Against Hunger aims to help more mothers in West Pokot, just like Cheposokol, bring their children to the health centre before it is too late.
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