Hope in Kenya
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.
Grace is a Clinical Officer at Busia Hospital with a kind smile and mild demeanor. We met when I came to document her training session for doctors on the new diarrheal disease treatment protocol, which incorporated updates from the newly launched national diarrheal disease policy. This was in late October, and she was due with a child in December. She told me she wanted a girl because she had her heart set on naming her Hope, and considered our chance meeting a good sign.
As fate would have it, in December, I got the good news from Grace: that she had given birth to a healthy baby girl, and had named her Hope.
I still think of little Hope whenever I recall my trip to Kenya. I consider what our name means, and how those meanings can shrink and expand depending on circumstance. In the U.S., where I was born, parents' hopes for their children are expansive and far-reaching. Our access to basic healthcare services affords us that opportunity. But in developing countries like Kenya, too many parents can only hope that their children live to see their fifth birthday. A life without health is a life with limited hope.
Lack of education among parents in rural communities is a significant challenge for diarrheal disease prevention. But thanks to the work of PATH and others, hope is taking a new shape in Kenya; it is expanding. Simple solutions - ORT corners, hygiene education, and more - have already translated into results. These photos are a powerful illustration of their success, and so is Grace's report of increased knowledge among mothers:
“My family is doing well and Hope is exclusively breastfeeding . . . Many women here in Kenya are now appreciative of the fact that exclusive breast-feeding reduces episodes of diarrhea in babies, and in my case it's not different because Hope has never had any diarrhea episodes. I thank God for the knowledge that I have and for the health he has bestowed upon my family.”
Having witnessed this direct evidence, I left Kenya staying true to my name. And thankfully, with a mom who has the knowledge she needs to help keep her children healthy, little Hope in Kenya has reason to be true to her name, too. And I hope she dreams big.
For more information:
- Our collective responsbility to child health
- A community celebrates the lifesaving impact of ORT corners
- Micronutrient Initiative saves lives in Kenya