Health is an important factor for the well-being and peace of mind of any community. In the hot, dusty and windy town of Isiolo, in a place called Tumaini, the skeletal structure of the new Health Center stands as a testimony of the growing need and appreciation of the provision of health. Right beside the construction sight is the old dispensary. A number of patients wait outside to receive their medication while others make their way there. Isiolo town, like many other marginalized communities in Kenya, suffers from abject poverty, illiteracy and HIV/AIDS.
The little dispensary at Tumaini has a history of its own: starting off as merely a mud structure called a ‘manyatta’ it grew to become a small room that now serves the inhabitants of the nine different center points served by the Pepo la Tumaini Jangwani Program. Not having adequate facilities has no doubt been a great challenge in the provision of health and, therefore, supplementary strategies have been employed, for instance the training and putting to work of Home Based Care workers and Counselors. This has proven to be cost-effective and convenient to some degree, but the overall aim is to improve and expand the provision of adequate health services to the growing number who need it. Pepo la Tumaini serves not only those in the program but the community as a whole: “The initial idea for building a Health Centre was voiced from around August of 2006, it has been a long road, but at last there is some result”, says Murithi a VCT counselor and pharmacist at Pepo.
The elderly, able-bodied Turkana women are a conspicuous sight at the construction sight of the new Health Center. They arrive every morning in groups of five to seven their faces set and determined to get right into the work of helping to build the Health Center. No work is too meager or too difficult for these women; from carrying heavy building stones to mixing cement to supplying the builders with water. They live several kilometers away in different center points, Maili Tano and Kambi Garba. Their resolve and devotion is evident on their faces as they work side by side with the youth and the men in the construction of a building they know and feel will be of great benefit to the community. One of the women shares with me her hopes and concerns as I join them under the shade of a tree one hot afternoon. The others nod in agreement to what she says: “They don’t take care of you at the Districts hospital. You could die on the waiting bench before the doctor gets a chance to see you.”
“We are very willing to help build the Health Center because it will help us,” says another Turkana grandmother lying on her side, her hands dirty from shifting rubble and soil. Many of these women have lost their children to HIV/AIDS and other opportunistic infections and have been left responsible for raising their grandchildren. Githinji—the building supervisor—has nothing but praise and admiration for these women: “They work just as hard as us. They have been of great help since we have been in need of more workers.”
Henry—a nursing officer working at the dispensary at Pepo la Tumaini since November 2006—feels that the new Health Centre will be of great help to them as health service providers. At the moment they are able to cater for a number of patients who come to seek medical attention, many of whom are part of the Pepo La Tumaini Program. The cases that they are ill-equipped to handle they refer to the District Hospital in Isiolo town. “There are no sterilizing equipments so we cannot perform sterile procedures,” explains Henry, voicing one of his main concerns. There is a plan to have one of the rooms in the new Health Centre serve as a laboratory. This will mean that the patients will not have to go all the way to town to get tests done. Henry and other health service providers working at the dispensary hope that there will be additional professional help to cater for the undoubted increase in patients once the Health Centre is complete and running.
The foundation of the new Health Centre was not only made of stone, sand and cement, but also from the dedication and devotion of the individuals that call Tumaini and its environs their home, first and foremost Khadija O. Rama the coordinator of the Pepo program, other supporting organizations, the family, co-workers and community at large.