Public Broadcasting Service, PBS. They get to everyone who cares to learn something.
I came home from a movie at about 12:30 am on Sunday morning and switched TV on. My plan was to fall asleep with TV as background noise. I had been watching some documentary on PBS before I left so the channel was on PBS. I was getting my blinds as I turned the TV on and had a moment of sheer confusion as I detected Swahili coming from TV. It peeked my curiosity and I paid attention. There was a hospital, in a place called Ogambe, a chief Kombo and certain “quacks” who “treat” the villagers when they fall ill. The documentary was largely about Malaria, research in Europe and test centers in Kenya and Gambia.
Well, chief Kombo is a very active chief. He went to the hospital to give some woman, whose child was admitted, money so he could be discharged and also some bus fare. He attempted to arrest the quacks but the villagers (about 15-30) stopped him. They said they needed the quacks to treat them. What the quacks are doing is causing resistant strains of malaria to develop by under prescribing malarial drugs. So the parasites remain within the body and recur as resilient types. Additionally, in the name of treating” people, they are causing deaths.
This whole thing is complicated. There are good reasons why these villagers need these quacks. This is a village that is very sparsely populated and obviously very impoverished. The chief walks everywhere and actually had to use rope to “cuff” one of the quacks because he didn’t have any other handcuffs. I also noticed the chief lacked police assistance. Basically, these villagers cannot afford the bills at the main hospital. Seriously, the bill for a child who had spent 3 nights was Ksh300. Sounds very little. But this woman could not afford it. Not only that, this child already had a resistant malarial strain and this lady did not buy the prescribed drugs because she couldn’t afford them. Needless to say, some 3 days later when the chief went to her house, her son was still ill, and yes, one of the quacks was in there.
My heart broke some many times as I watched this documentary. There was a European researcher who was begging the wealthy nations of the west to give out mosquito nets as a solution. Apparently they market these via ‘social marketing’ programs where they have plays that educate people as to why they need to buy the nets. The point they are all missing is that these targeted groups cannot afford the nets at any cost. So basically, the nets these wealthy nations provide sit in warehouses as scores of people die from Malaria. One of my heart breaking moments was when his plea fell on deaf ears. I watched, as he spoke, Charity Ngilu nodding her head to everything he said.
I fell asleep finally. Last I saw of this documentary was a chief Kombo frustrated but determined, giving in saying he had to deal with the quacks after the malaria season in September. The people needed them and he would meanwhile keep asking the quacks for their certifications. The villagers volunteered to fundraise so as to pay for the quacks education for certifications. The white guy from Europe, whose name I don’t remember ever hearing, continues to experiment with a malaria vaccine. This is one genuine white man after the health of the African, not the dollar or the pound.
I was amazed at how backward certain parts of Kenya are. I was also upset at the unwillingness of IMF and other bodies to genuinely assist these needy people. I was irate that people are dying from malaria in Kenya over drugs that cost less than ksh200. I questioned if the root problem was with the allocation of funds from the ministry of health to malaria prone areas. Or the problem was with the unwillingness of Kenyans to get involved with their own problems. Could maybe a “walk against Malaria” raise enough money annually to alleviate this scourge? I’m sure part of the problem is the quacks, who mean well, but are causing major issues. What about the lack of administrative presence to assist a man such as Chief Kombo? He very much seemed like a man who works alone. He physically went to the hospital to deliver the funds, walked to the villagers homes to see the ailing and also to make arrests. It’s interesting to note that I learn more about Kenya by not living in it. Kudos to chief Kombo. He is one dutiful man.
Where is Ogambe? I thought the people spoke a language close to kikuyu like maybe Embu or Meru. Every now and then though I thought it was Kisii. Anyone know? I didn't see any water mass. I usually associate that with malaria prone areas. Also, may I challenge anyone that still lives in Kenya to organize an annual "Stamp Malaria Out" walk?