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State of Health in Kenya; Lessons from Death of Friends

Slightly more than a month ago, I attended the funeral of one Anthony Munyao Kamwe. Anthony Munyao Kamwe  was your average university student , in his early twenties, and with a bright future ahead of  him. His life was cut short by stomach cancer.

His burial was at his home,  inside the Kitui National Reserve, a dry area littered by baobab trees hundreds of years old;  an area where portions of the forest are still intact, despite the harsh weather. The area is a 2 hour earthen road drive from Kitui town, which itself is a 2 hour drive from Nairobi.

His death provided us with 2 important lessons.

First is the state of health care in the country. Anthony Munyao was the second friend I lost to health complicated matters in an year, the first been Sylvia, a beautiful girl who succumbed to Kidney failure. Anthony Munyao was diagnosed with ulcers while in high school which was about 7 years ago. He was treated for ulcers , a condition which kept recurring time and again. About 2 weeks before he died, his condition deteriorated, and he was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital for further diagnosis. There they discovered that he had stomach cancer, which had advanced over time to an incurable state.  He had been misdiagnosed with ulcers all that time he was been treated for ulcers.

Ironically,  one week after we buried him, the Daily Nation published an article about the anti-carcinogenic qualities of some fruits called “matomoko”. The fruits grow in abundance in Kitui district.

Back to  Sylvia, she seemed a healthy girl until she took a trip to Kisumu for a camp in 2007. She enjoyed the camp, other than for swelling of her arms, legs and face. She had experienced such swellings before especially after travelling, and she thought they were caused  by the travelling. After the camp, she went for a medical check up. There she was diagnosed with kidney failure.

She underwent several dialysis sessions, and was due for a transplant before she passed away in 2008.

This brings us to the state of the medical sector in the country. Doctors are rare, expensive and burdened. Hospitals are under staffed and technologically handicapped in terms of medical equipment. This has resulted in a situation where we have many clinics and dispensaries manned by clinical officers. Here patients are treated for symptoms and common ailments. Many patients suffering from curable conditions are misdiagnosed  for other ailments while undergoing treatment at this hospitals and health units. By the time correct diagnosis is done, they are usually on their death bed.

To stop the loss of young people to search ailments, we need a lot of investment in the health sector. Apart from the government  building new hospitals, we need to further improve the health policy by proper training of more personnel and better equipping of existing health facilities.

The second lesson I learnt from Anthony Munyao's death was to do with his schooling. Anthony Munyao came from an impoverished area, and went for secondary education at Starehe Boys Centre and School. He was a sponsored student, and he was able to complete his education and proceed to university due to financial support from sponsors. At his funeral, the speakers pointed out that less than 5 people from the area have attended university education.

The role of Starehe Boys Centre and School in securing the education of many less privileged schools is quite critical in our Kenya. Such institutions have helped many Kenyans achieve their dreams, and helped improve the welfare of their families. Their importance in their society should not ignored.

Help improve and make affordable the health and education sectors in the Country. We should not loose more friends.
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