Monday, August 17, 2009
Photo: Work in progress on the new Kibera School for Girls
It's good to be back in Kenya again, despite all the bad news I keep hearing. And I have heard some good news too. I went to see a Kibera based organisation called SHOFCO, who work with young people and HIV positive women. Their founder, Kennedy Odede, has attracted a lot of funding while on a scholarship in the US and they are busy building a school and a maternal health clinic. When I went to visit them some time ago they were unable to do much due to lack of funding but they are really flourishing now.
Meanwhile, quite a number of people have died of hunger related conditions in the past few months in Kenya. Drought and food shortages continue and many more are suffering from the effects of extreme hunger and malnutrition. Even in areas where food is being distributed, the unbalanced, high-starch diet contributes to malnutrition related diseases.
Friends in Isiolo have told me that the drought has meant that people need to move their livestock many kilometres in order to find water and grazing. This leaves their families very vulnerable to the attacks by bandits, which have become more frequent recently. In particular, a group of HIV positive women, who joined together to buy goods and livestock, have lost some of their livestock to bandits.
Eastern and North Eastern provinces, where much of the extreme poverty and food shortages occur, are somewhat isolated from the very centralised Kenyan administration. They are far away enough for most politicians to forget about them until it comes to electioneering. Then, small gifts can be distributed until votes have been safely cast.
These areas have also long been ignored when it comes to HIV related programmes because HIV prevalence is relatively low and people are not seen as being 'high risk'. This oversight is slowly being corrected, but for many years, HIV was spreading, albeit slowly. Populations are not dense but many of the people are very mobile, having to move around seeking pasture, water and trade.
I'm looking forward to visiting my friends in Isiolo who run IYAP (Isiolo Youth Against Poverty) this week. Hopefully I'll have more and better news then.
Photo: IYAP go out into the streets to attract people to be tested for HIV but this service is being compromised by the current security situation.