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Kenya: Children’s centre saves lives

On my second day at Wajir, I began to understand why many rural families displaced by the recurrent droughts do not return home.

They stay at Wajir town mainly to receive life-saving aid but also to access healthcare for their children.

“Last year, Naima was very malnourished and had high fever,” said three-year-old Naima’s father, Ali.

“We took her to the doctor near our village in Argamay [in Wajir South]. They gave her a drip and medicines but that did not help. We then moved to a cousin’s house near Wajir town and she was treated by a mobile health team. She quickly recovered and we regularly brought her to the hospital for check ups.”

Three-year-old Naima has a daily weight check at Save the Children's Stabilisation Centre in the District Hospital in Wajir town.

Dependent on aid

Ali is a farmer and animal herder. He grows maize, sorghum, beans and other vegetables and also tends 40 animals for a living.

With his crops ruined and animals dying, he moved to Wajir last year and now looks for casual work in the town, relying on his cousin’s support and aid from the World Food Programme.

Whooping cough

Two weeks ago, Naima again fell sick and rapidly lost weight.

When she was brought to Save the Children’s Stabilisation Centre at the District Hospital in Wajir, Naima weighed only 8kg and was suffering from whooping cough, with symptoms of pneumonia.

When I visited, she had gained 2.5kg but still could not sit up by herself.

Lucy, Save the Children’s nurse, said, “she must be at least 12kg before we can consider her out of the danger zone. Thank God we were able diagnose her respiratory illness and give her the right antibiotics on time.”

Centre saves lives

There were 10 children at our Centre when I visited.

Here they receive treatments for severe malnutrition and the ailments they contract because of their weakened condition. They are constantly monitored while parents are given necessary information about nutrition and hygiene.

“There were more than 100 children in this centre til December 2011,” said Lucy. “Even now, ten to fifteen new children are admitted each week. Some have minor infections but others suffer from complications due to malnutrition.”

Lucy was confident that Naima will make a full recovery and be discharged after the mandatory 21-day observation period.

Of more than 300 children Lucy has treated at the centre over the past eight months, only 10 lost their lives. They died because when they were admitted “they only had bones left in their bodies,” she says.

Meanwhile, Naima’s father intends on staying in Wajir now.

“I have nothing to go back to. My elder brother visited our village recently. He said there is still not enough water there. How can I risk going back with my children falling sick here in Wajir?”

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