Only a year ago, the rural residents of Emurutoto and neighbouring communities were celebrating the opening of this essential clinic facility.
Who would have imagined that this same donor-sponsored clinic would be nominated by the Kenyan Government as one of two clinics in the Narok County to be used for COVID-19 cases?
This turn of events necessitated urgent action. Donor funds of USD 1,500 were sourced and deployed for the supply of specialized medical items and personal protective equipment to equip the clinic’s doctor and COVID-quarantine room.
An inside perspective
Simon Saitoti, Africa Foundation’s Programme Officer and a community resident, understands all too well the grave challenges of the current situation.
There is an air of unreality as there have been no cases in this region yet, but these communities are especially vulnerable.
One of the threats comes from the nearby Tanzanian border where high-risk, illegal crossings continue as food shortages triggered by market closures become an increasing challenge. At the shopping centre nearby the clinic, a container of water is put outside in line with a Government ruling, but is unused by shoppers walking in and out of the centre. Why? Because the Government’s campaign of awareness and precautionary measures is still filtering through to these remote regions.
“I don’t know what would have happened if we did not have the clinic”, Simon says.
With the exception of the room that has been set aside for COVID cases, the clinic continues to service the needs of this area, including the all-important children’s vaccination programme. In addition to all these duties, the clinic doctor is actively driving awareness of fundamental preventative measures.
Some of the clinic’s supply of hand sanitizers have been shared with the shopping centre, and staff members at &Beyond Kichwa Tembo are manufacturing masks for community use. Practical demonstrations have been needed to illustrate the thorough hand washing protocols, as well as how to place the mask over both the mouth and nose.
And social distancing?
In rural communities where extended families and neighbours live in close proximity, where the fabric of the community is shaped by daily contact, and where there is simply nowhere else to go, the challenges of social distancing are enormous.
Even for Simon, who has a clear understanding of the importance of this element, it raises personal dilemmas – like the one he explained as we ended our Skype call:
“When I go home now after coming to Kichwa to talk to you – when I see my little boy – when he comes running to me – do I tell him ‘No, stop there’ because we’re not supposed to get close to each other?”
There are no easy answers, but one thing is clear. The way through this crisis lies in the combined efforts of all those Africa Foundation and &Beyond staff on the ground in this region, and in donor support of the dedicated AF COVID-19 Projects for this region.