Turkana is the poorest county in Kenya, with over 80% of the population living below the poverty line. The people in Turkana are amongst the most marginalised and are largely excluded from mainstream health and development planning.
Here, providing sustainable, practical solutions to healthcare issues is key. Women in the region are the gatekeepers to their communities’ health, so leveraging their power unlocks opportunities.
In Elelea – one of the many areas in Turkana where Amref operates - irrigation systems have been installed through water tanks, turning areas of scrubland into gardens and farms for crop growing. Not only does this address the issue of poor nutrition; the sale of vegetables gives women in the community an income - a significant shift in a largely patriarchal society. This income also gives the women the ability to buy nutritious food for their children to supplement what they grow.
Samal is a member of the farming co-operative set up by Amref Health Africa UK. She works with other women from the local community, growing vegetables in the grounds of the local health centre. “Before Amref came to our village, our children were very malnourished. Now, we grow our own crops and we can feed our families properly. I didn’t always have a job, or a purpose. Now, we are all businesswomen.”
Often, community groups can make up to KSh 600 ($6) a day that can be invested back into the farm to grow the business. Because money of this scale is a new concept in Turkana, training from Amref on banking and taking out loans to grow these businesses is part of the sustainability process.
Once successful pilot farms have been introduced, the women’s group involved share their business model with nearby communities. This sharing of skills, knowledge and experience gives women a means to look after themselves and their young children, as well as establishing a strong sense of purpose and independence.
John Kutna is an Amref Project Manager for the Turkana region.
“In the past in Turkana, there has been a huge focus on health, but no attention paid to the root causes of sickness and disease. The way Amref Health Africa works is different. We address the underlying health issues, such as malnutrition, to ensure there is no relapse. Because we have been a part of these communities for so long, we understand the health challenges in a unique manner and address them in a useful and sustainable way. We have to come up with innovative ideas because the environment and the people are so unique.”
Direct beneficiaries: 7,879
Indirect beneficiaries: 4,050
Health workers trained: 130
Women benefitted: 1,473
Children benefitted: 5,926
Kenya in numbers
Population: 47.2 million
Number of doctors per 1000 people: 0.2
Maternal mortality rate (per 100,000): 362
Under 5s mortality rate (per 1000 live births): 52
Unmet need for family planning (among women 15-49): 18%