Kenya suffers one of the worst health worker shortages in the world. There are currently more Kenyan doctors working abroad than in their own country. And that has left many in the rural areas with nowhere to turn. Barry Simmons tells us about one local man who is trying to fill the gap.
(Locator: Ugunja, Kenya)
On Kenya’s western border in a town called Ugunja, the closest thing to a doctor is the nurse at St. Paul’s Methodist Health Center.
Dan Rateng/Nurse: “There is a shortage. Why? Because they simply go for the greener pastures.”
Aggrey Omondi started this clinic three years ago. He walks with a limp because he grew up with poor health care. His mission is to provide something better for his children.
Aggrey Omondi/Clinic Founder: “By providing this facility, we are trying to prolong the lives of the people and also make them more productive.”
Here in Ugunja, every fourth person is infected with HIV. They have nowhere to go. So Aggrey started a support group.
Aggrey Omondi/Clinic Founder: “Here we have widows. Here we have widowers. Here we have couples - one is living positive, one is living negative. And you can see it’s a challenging issue. How do you deal with that?”
Without drug treatments, pregnant women with HIV pass along the virus to their children. So Aggrey is also building a maternity ward to care for them.
Sylvester Opiyo/HIV Patient: “Nowadays, having come together it no longer scares us. We take it the way it is. We’ve got the virus. We have to stay with it.”
But money is tight: last year construction stopped and the clinic almost closed, until United Methodists in the U.S. committed $10,000 to keep it open.
Aggrey Omondi/Clinic Founder: “All this is for the community benefit, and they really appreciate it.”
The St. Paul’s Methodist Health Center serves about 300 people living with HIV. Aggrey is determined to keep the clinic open. Take away their free health care, he worries, and you take away their hope.
The health worker shortage is so severe that in the clinic’s district – which is home to 450,000 people – there are just three doctors.
For more information about health care projects in Kenya, contact the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries at 212-870-3870.
Also, see: Kenya clinic provides care amid doctor shortage