Healthcare, Nutrition, and Prevention at St. John’s Clinic at Kodera Karabach
Where We Began
During the Christmas season of 1999 , PLCC missions committee sent four members to the Sures in Kodera, Kenya. The needs weren’t clearly understood until that visit. The greatest need expressed by the leadership of the village was healthcare. The situation at that time was grim. The nearest healthcare was far away. At a meeting with leaders of the Kodera community, the mission group asked if Pine Lake Covenant Church (PLCC) could help improve the lives of the people. The response was a big YES. There was no mincing of words and the leaders who spoke stated that what was needed most was health care for, “we are a dying community. People lived in the fear of death and hopelessness was evident… and could be seen in their faces even from a distance.”
The medical problems in the village included lack of clean water, intestinal parasites, dysentery, unattended childbirth, malnutrition, starvation, malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS. Infant mortality was nearly 50%. During childbirth either the newborn or the mother died half the time. In fact, village leaders were very bold to share that they wanted a hospital.
What We Have Done
PLCC began to provide funds for a several community health projects. Initially, in conjunction with a Catholic organization, several spring boxes were constructed to provide clean water for the village. In late 2000, a local group of villagers went to every home in the village and provided de-worming medication to all residents. New latrines were built at the schools.
In 2003 a medical team consisting of one physician and several nurses held a clinic for a week at the local grade school, the Mititi school. More than 1000 people needing medical care overwhelmed the medical team. Many of these people had never seen a doctor. It was evident that a permanent health care facility was needed in Kodera. With funding of supplies by PLCC, the villagers built a clinic. During this process over one hundred women hauled water from the nearby river on their heads to make cement and mortar. Meanwhile many of the men were assisting in the construction. In August of 2004 the new three room clinic was dedicated St. John’s Clinic, Karabach by the villagers. The dedication was attended by government officials, including the District Commissioner, a first in the history of Kodera. A team a 24 people from PLCC watched. This team included 3 doctors, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists. The team then saw over 1000 patients, provided re-hydration education, tipi-taps for hand washing, medications and supplies. As the team left to return to the US, the clinic was turned over to a capable nurse who would provide subsequent care.
Where We Are Now
Within 6 months of having consistent health care given by Kenyan nurses and assistants, the people began to see a reduction in illnesses and deaths. Previously the people were losing 50% of either their mothers or babies at childbirth, and now they had lost none. They began saying, “Maybe God did not intend us to die young”, and, “Once we were in the darkness, now we are in the light.” In May 2006 another medical team from PLCC returned to hold another clinic. At that time we brought a donated ultrasound machine, a microscope, a gas powered refrigeration unit, and sterilization equipment. A generator at the clinic provides electricity intermittently. At this clinic the change in the people was remarkable. Fewer than 300 patients were seen, and the severely dehydrated babies were no longer present. The clinic was now a site of government vaccination programs for children. Treated mosquito nets used in the prevention of malaria, were handed out to each vaccinated child. Health education of the villagers continued, and they were introduced to the moringa plant, which provides excellent nutritional support and also has healing properties. Prenatal care is available for all pregnant women, and over 160 couples have gotten involved with family planning. In 2007, nearly 200 mothers gave birth safely at the clinic. A total of 560 children attended the child welfare clinic.
Where We Are Going
However, our work is not finished. PLCC and Mercy Walk work with the village leaders to determine the next projects. The clinic needs expansion to provide a childbirth area, 2 wards for overnight care, and a laboratory. A second nurse will be necessary for us to be able to continue to retain staff for the clinic. Further education and treatment is necessary regarding nutrition, HIV/AIDS (in 20%), endemic malaria, and treatment of resistant TB.
We feel so privileged to be partners with this wonderful group of people, and their leadership, and will continue to engage until God gives us further direction.