Friday, April 3, 2009


The cycle continues. Rain is providing much-needed hope for another harvest. It is also providing a breeding ground for mosquito-borne malaria, as well as another cholera outbreak. Eight hundred sixty cases of cholera have been reported in Kenya since November. A recent "alert" went out for (our) Western and (nearby) Nyanza provinces, after several cases cropped up in Kakamega and Kisumu. Once-dry creek beds are now running with contaminated wastewater from the nearby submerged latrines. Mothers and children fill their bright plastic buckets, balance them on their heads, and patiently walk the dirty water home for household consumption.

Not everyone has had the benefit of our Mothers' Union "Waterguard" training, and not everyone has the pennies to buy the requisite Jik (bleach) to purify the water. Boiling works only if the water is filtered and boiled long enough. Deforestation threatens many areas, firewood is at a premium, and open fires are usually reserved for cooking dietary staples like uggi/porridge and ugali/maize meal.

In a recent survey, most of our Mothers' Union mamas reported that the orphans in their own communities are receiving just "strong (plain, no milk) tea" for breakfast, plus ugali for dinner 3-4 nights a week. Water is on the menu the other nights. Beans and corn are now too expensive for most people to buy in the Luanda market. Many families haven't been able to plant their shambas because, to prevent starvation, they fed their children the beans and corn that had been stored from last season to propagate this one. Fruits and meats are out of the question. We are seeing kwashiorkor routinely. Our Saturday morning Mothers' Union feeding programs are more important now than ever.

Meanwhile, babies and toddlers with malaria are filling our pediatrics ward. "Malaria continues and poverty deepens in a truly vicious circle," writes economist Jeffrey Sachs. Sick and well kids are currently crammed bed-to-bed at Maseno Hospital because the school holiday is also the occasion for another round of circumcisions. We are inundated with temporarily-rambunctious adolescent boys. In an effort to help battle the transmission of HIV/AIDS, NGO's are sponsoring week-long surgery-plus-education programs throughout sub-Saharan Africa. "As always," Sachs writes in his book The End of Poverty, "these battles are never won, just pushed forward to new terrain. Still, after years of extreme neglect, the battle against AIDS, malaria and TB has finally been joined."

Sachs closes his book by quoting Robert Kennedy: "Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills -- against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence... Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events , and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this [or any] generation."

No comments: