In a hot, dry town in Ghana called Navrongo, a group of mothers gathered one day last year at a health clinic.
The mothers – about 30 of them – had traveled on foot and by bicycle, carrying their young children, to meet with the doctors and health workers overseeing a vaccine trial for an illness called rotavirus in which their children were participating.
It is hardly a month since the football frenzy ended, vuvuzelas were stored away, and South Africa could proudly say it was the first African nation to host the World Cup. South Africa boasts other firsts.
It is the first African nation to host an International Rotavirus Symposium and the first sub Saharan country to include rotavirus vaccine in its Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI). This two day symposium, which ends on August 3, 2010, brings together scientists, clinicians, public health and immunization professionals, vaccine industry representatives and implementing organizations to discuss latest research results, clinical trials and new vaccine approaches.
In remote villages of Western Kenya, children are asked to bring water to school.
They collect water around the house or along their journey to school each day in a variety of worn containers of varying sizes. They collect surface water often turbid and filled with dirt, mud and possibly fecal matter that can cause diarrhea—often with terrible consequences. Before our safe water project started in their schools, the children would drink this water without any treatment.
I vividly remember the night, nine years ago, when I franticly rushed my 9 month old son to Nairobi hospital due to a bad bout of diarrhea.
Being my second child, I’d thought I’d seen all there was to see regarding the usual childhood illness: flu, diarrhea and the occasional case of tonsillitis. But this time, this bout of diarrhea seemed much worse than the ‘usual’; my child was literally wasting away fast. He was diagnosed with rotavirus.
On a recent trip to Kenya’s Western Province, I witnessed how the Oral Rehydration Treatment (ORT) corner is becoming an important part of primary care services in that region.
While I was visiting one of the ORT corners in Kakamega, a shy young mother came in with her 4 month old baby. He had been having diarrhea for the past two days, and had stopped nursing. He was alternately fussy and listless. He had the classic signs of dehydration: sunken fontanel, skin torpor, he wasn’t tracking much, shed no tears when he cried.
One of the simple pleasures of making field trips to rural Kenya are the meals served at road side restaurants.
These meals are fresh, fast and finger-licking good! Often served in modest (read inexpensive) road side eating houses, just enough dishes are made for each day because such establishments do not have refrigeration equipment. In fact, most equipment and furniture is a modification of "modern" equivalents enjoyed at other more urban or plush places.
In the village of Kamusinga, Kenya, parents learn about basic diarrheal disease prevention strategies from a community health volunteer.
Memories of my stay in the bustling border town of Busia, Kenya, fill me with optimism. Last October, I journeyed to Kenya to document PATH’s exciting work and to explore ways to inspire people in the field to be advocates for child health. I saw doctors being trained in new diarrhea treatment protocol, mothers educated on basic prevention, and an increasing number of fathers committed to participating in the health of their children. But what I think about most often is my introduction to a little girl who shares my name, just before she came into the world.
A health care worker demonstrates simple and effective hand-washing techniques.
"You can be extremely poor but extremely clean." If there ever was a statement that dispelled assumptions about the correlation between hygiene and poverty, it was this statement from Rwanda’s Minister for health in his opening remarks at a pro poor sanitation and hygiene workshop recently held in Kigali, Rwanda.
Alfred Ochola points to the title of his panel at the Global Health Conference: "WaSHing (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) to Improve Health in Developing Countries: Opportunities and Obstacles."
I was thrilled when I learned that Alfred, our diarrheal disease control program implementer in Western Kenya, was going to take his first trip to the United States to speak at the Global Health Council Conference. He had been a tireless, gracious host during my two trips to Kenya, and I was excited for the opportunity to return the favor.