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Let us all work and learn together – a complex healthcare programme in Muthale, in Kenya

The diocese of Kitui in Kitui County is inhabited mainly by the Kamba indigenous peoples, who are one of the seven largest ethnic groups living in Kenya. Data collected by the Kenyan Ministry of Health indicates that child mortality among those under the age of five born in Kitui County reaches 60 per 1,000, with more than half of these deaths attributable to treatable diseases assuming the child were to receive treatment in time.

Unfortunately, in the area slated for implementation of the project, only about half of children with acute respiratory infections or diarrhoea are brought to existing healthcare centres. This is because many mothers cannot afford treatment for their sick children or a hospital delivery. Only a few people there have any knowledge of what sort of disturbing symptoms might call for immediate hospital treatment.

The Kitui region also has the highest child growth deficit (low stature) rate in Kenya: 46 per cent of children there are too short for their age, indicative of poor nutrition caused largely by low levels of maternal education.

Additionally, the Muthale municipal hospital struggles with many issues; including poor qualifications of the staff in the field of intensive neonatal care and shortages of basic medical supplies.

The project was a continuation of activities carried out by volunteers from Fundacja Harambee Polska in 2014 and 2015.

Let us all work and learn together – a complex healthcare programme in Muthale, in Kenya

The project was implemented between 15 June 2016 and 31 December 2016 at the Muthale Mission Hospital, Kenya. Three volunteers were in Kenya between 16 July 2016 and 27 October 2016. The beneficiaries of their operation included the hospital’s entire medical staff, all the women giving birth at the hospital and their children, as well as residents of nearby villages.

The project was developed with the objective of halting the high neonatal, infant and child mortality rates registered in the vicinity of Muthale. The volunteers’ task was to reach out with life-saving knowledge to caregivers engaging with children at various stages of their development.

Project activities consisted of volunteers providing hospital staff with training in neonatal care and resuscitation of newborns, providing HIV-positive mothers with training in appropriate child care and responses to the presence of disturbing symptoms, and organising lectures in nearby schools on substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. Volunteers also participated in the routine work of the hospital, its clinic, its HIV-positive patient care centre and its dispensaries, i.e. the primary healthcare centres the hospital operates.

Moreover, upon their return to Poland, the volunteers undertook an educational initiative that included screenings of a documentary shot in Kenya.

The project aimed to implement the human capital priority and Sustainable Development Goal 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Let us all work and learn together – a complex healthcare programme in Muthale, in Kenya

Training was provided to more than 400 mothers and pregnant women, all of the hospital staff (about 30) and over 2,000 children from nearby schools. The volunteers also provided training on adult ALS and CPR procedures and played an active role in the hospital’s campaign promoting Kenya's national health insurance system.

Mothers learned to care for their children in the early years of life in order to ensure their healthy development, and they acquired knowledge about how to react when they observe disturbing symptoms in their children, including indications that a child needs to be taken to hospital. In the course of the work performed by the volunteers, there was a noticeable increase in the number of HIV-positive women who decided to consult with the hospital on their children’s illnesses. The number of local residents registered with the national health insurance system also increased.

The medical staff acquired knowledge of intensive care for newborns and, as a result, will be able to provide professional care to children born in hospital in the early days of their lives. After the ALS training, patients with sudden cardiac arrest in hospital wards were resuscitated and defibrillated: one out of the five resuscitations performed in the hospital during the course of the project was successful. As a result of the neonatal care training, nurses and midwives upgraded skills needed during labour and immediately afterwards.

The volunteers provided local children with knowledge about basic hygiene, risk avoidance, healthy lifestyles and family planning.

The project included purchases of the required training materials and disposable supplies, including those the volunteers used in their work at the hospital.

As part of the educational initiative, upon their return to Poland, the volunteers organised lectures and screenings of The Muthale Mission, a documentary shot on location in Kenya, for schools and parish communities. The material was also made available on the Internet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4xzqVBP_Gc).