Good healthcare is a fundamental right for every Kenyan. Research shows that the healthcare needs of individuals living in rural areas are different from those in urban areas with rural communities lacking access to quality healthcare.
Nyatike Sub County in Migori County is no exception when it comes to inadequate health facilities. For the 56,000 residents of this semi-arid region, where the average household income is Sh3,000 per month, spending Sh300 on transport fare to access health services is equivalent to spending a month’s wage to get medical attention. These are the challenges that the residents of Ogongo Village in Nyatike have been facing over the years. This challenge is further compounded by poor roads in the region making access to the main healthcare facility almost impossible especially during rainy seasons.
Fortunately, things are taking a positive turn after Kared Fod Women Development Group, a local NGO in Nyatike, partnered with KCDF to complete Ogongo Community Dispensary that the NGO had started building but could not finish due to lack of funds.
It’s midday and there is a beehive of activities at the dispensary. Women with children tied on their backs as well as elderly men have lined up to see the only two doctors at the dispensary. The residents have to contend with having a small window of five hours to seek medical attention from the two available doctors before the doctors’ move to neighboring Macalder Sub-District Hospital where patients are also eagerly waiting for them.
The government medical personnel have to be facilitated by Kared Fod to attend to patients at Ogongo Community Dispensary once a week for only five hours as there are not enough medical personnel to run the two facilities simultaneously.
Pamela Atieno, 42, is among the patients who have come to Ogongo Dispensary for treatment. She has been diagnosed with malaria and given the requisite drugs to manage her sickness.
“I am glad that this dispensary is now operational even though only once a week. Many people have succumbed to such small ailments in the area due to limited access to healthcare attention. Ordinarily, I would have spent KES 400 to go to Nyatike, for treatment but I get to save that money for other household needs as the dispensary is only a stone’s throw away.” Said the elated mother of 10.
Although Atieno is happy that she can access medical care, she is mourning her brother-in-law who passed on a few days ago from Tuberculosis. He was physically challenged and could not afford the Sh300 transport fare to go to Nyatike for treatment in good time. The TB strain became resistant before he could get medical attention and by the time he went to Ogongo Dispensary, which had been opened two days earlier, it was too late.
The dispensary however did not come easy. When the community was informed of a partner who was willing to make their dream of having a dispensary come true, they all jumped at it. But their celebration was short lived when they were told that they had to raise half of the amount to complete the dispensary which stood at Sh661,555.
Initially, the community members couldn’t understand why they were being asked to contribute towards the project as they were used to being granted the full amount for any of their development programme. There was some slight acrimony from the communities of the funding prompting officials at Kared Fod to act fast to explain to them the concept behind the Entrenching Local Resources (Pamoja for Change) match grant model. The community later embraced the model partly because they were tired of the endless trips to Nyatike whenever they fell sick as well the prospect of owning the project.
“Many of the people in this community are used to being given things for free. They could not understand why someone would volunteer to help them and then ask them to contribute too,” said Roses Akinyi, the Project Coordinator for Kared Fod.
The community embarked on a fundraising drive to raise their share of the match. The community through Kared Fod successfully held two fundraising event bringing together both the political leadership of the area as well as the community members to raise the requisite KES 661,555. Part of the funds was raised in kind; community members who did not have cash contributed 50 bags of maize which was later sold and the money directed to the kitty. Other ingenious ways the community used to raise money was through providing labour in construction of the dispensary while contributing their daily wages towards the project. The two fundraising drives were attended by community members who reside in the area as well as the political leadership of the area.
“We were very encouraged when the community members got fully engaged in raising the resources; it’s a phenomena that has not been witnessed in this side of the country before. It was by no means an easy endevour but it has motivated the community to come together to do even more projects that will benefit them. The community fully appreciate that they have enough resources amongst themselves and can chart their destiny as far as community development is concerned,” added Roses.
Once the money was deposited into the KCDF account and the first batch released, construction of the dispensary started in earnest. The second tranche of the money was used to equip the dispensary by stocking examination beds, baby coats, Intravenous delivery pans, blood pressure machines and weighing scales among others.
“This dispensary is god-sent. I only wish it could be operating full time but the stress of accessing health care has been reduced tremendously.” Quips Pamela Atieno.
But it’s only a matter of time before the facility starts operating full time. The Ministry of Health has already factored the dispensary in the deployment of medical personnel in the coming year.