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Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil,
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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous
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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human
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State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

 
Reprieve for Turkana Indigenous Women as Charity Firm Provides Maternity Clinic
NAIROBI, Kenya -- Cases of high infant mortality and maternal deaths among indigenous Turkana people could soon gradually decline as charitable and nongovernmental organizations partner to provide maternal health care.

By Shadrack Kavilu

Photo: Turkana woman with her three chikldren. Credit: Shadrack Kavilu.

Safaricom foundation, the Corporate Social Investment arm of Safaricom Limited one of the largest telecommunication firms in the country has partnered with Turkana Basin Institute, a research based institution to construct a maternity clinic in the remote village of Loreng’elup in Turkana central constituency.

The health project is part of an initiative by the private sector aimed at complimenting the government’s efforts towards the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals of eradicating poverty and ensuring indigenous and marginalized people gain access to health care facilities.

Though public health remains a major concern in Kenya with communicable diseases still

crippling large numbers of Kenya’s population as well as high infant and maternal

mortality, indigenous people are most vulnerable to diseases as they lack health care facilities.

The maternal clinic will serve an estimated population of 1,000 women of childbearing age who for years have had to walk hundreds of kilometers to access a public health center.

According to a recent country Human Development Report, infant and maternal mortality rates are highest in the poorer regions, and huge disparities exist between urban and rural areas.

Under-five mortality rates are 26 percent higher in rural areas including Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL) which are mostly inhabited by indigenous people.

ASALs have the highest levels of food poverty in Kenya due to persistent droughts, and people occupying these areas have the lowest access to health and social services.

Though there are no data specific to the health of indigenous peoples in the report, disaggregate data show that child mortality is highest in Nyanza and Northeastern provinces, where there are large populations of indigenous people.

Ikal Ang’elei, the programme coordinator for Turkana Basin Institute says that the construction of the health clinic would significantly reduce the high rate of infant and maternal deaths among the indigenous Turkana people.

She said that hug efforts are needed to reduce infant mortality rates, particularly in ASALs, where HIV/ AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases are rife and are a constant threat to young children with still developing immune systems living in abject poverty with little or no health care at their disposal.

The programme coordinator noted that due to poor road infrastructure, marginalization and the rampant cattle rustling in the area, Turkana mothers lack specialized attention to complications at birth as in most cases they rely on traditional birth attendants for assistance during ante-natal, labor, delivery and post-natal phases which result to infant and maternal deaths.

Ang’elei attributes the high infant rate and maternal deaths to poor nutrition, limited access to health care and lack of resources crucial to maintaining health and well being and contamination of natural resources.

While commissioning the project, Mr. Les Baillie, Chairman, Safaricom Foundation noted that the maternity clinic, besides complementing global efforts to reduce mortality rates, it is also in line with Kenya’s development agenda of providing an efficient and high quality health care system with the best standards.

“This project will help raise standards of delivery in this area thus help save more lives of both mothers and newborns,” said Mr. Baillie.

Globally, it is estimated that up to 358, 000 women die each year in pregnancy and childbirth.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also estimates that 7.6 million children under five died in 2010. Between1960-1990, child mortality in developing regions was halved to one child in 10 dying before the age of five.

Through the Millennium Development Goals, WHO strives to reduce under five child mortality rates by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, and reducing maternal mortality by three quarters over the same period.

Some of WHO’s strategies to reduce infant mortality include providing timely treatment of complications for newborns and integrating management of childhood illness for all children under five years old. On the other hand, ensuring that quality services are provided in health facilities will help reduce the number of women deaths at childbirth.

According to a recent UN report, the first ever to document thestate of the worlds indigenous people on health it is estimated that roughly 350 million indigenous peoples suffer from disproportionately, often exponentially, higher rates of poverty, health problems, crime and human rights abuses.

The report noted that Indigenous people experience disproportionately high levels of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, cardiovascular illnesses, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis (TB).

The report illustrated that Indigenous peoples’ life expectancy is up to 20 years lower than their non-indigenous counterparts.

The Safaricom foundation project is one of many concerted efforts made by the private sector meant to compliment the government fast track the achievement of UN millennium development goals on health.

Previously, the Safaricom Foundation has helped improve access to healthcare services within Turkana County by holding free medical camps that saw thousands of patients benefit from free medical care.

The latest camp was in November 2011 and was held in partnership with Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre (DMI).

During the same year, the Foundation also supported an orthopaedic medical camp in Lokichar Location, together with AIC Cure Hospital where patients with physical disabilities were fitted with artificial limbs.

Illustration: Map of Turkana homeland in Kenya.




Updated 07.03.2012
Published by: Magne Ove Varsi