It seems that the continent of Africa experiences chronic crises. Drought, war, disease…the list truly could go on and on. Usually these crises rarely make the news in the United States. Kenya is currently going through one such crisis: a doctor’s strike. The doctors who are employed by the government of Kenya are ALL on strike, nationwide. This means that all government hospitals, the main type of hospital found in Kenya, are without doctors. The only alternative for those seeking medical treatment is to go to a private hospital, where the fees are considerably higher than the socialized care found at the government run hospitals.
It would be easy to blame the government or the doctors. However, the lines are so blurred when it comes to the situation. The doctors are on strike for better pay, benefits, and hours, which are needed. The government does not have the capability to create a blanket set of improvements nationwide, so they are not negotiating well. As a result, the strike continues. It has now continued for THREE months. Three months with little to no healthcare available to the citizens of Kenya. No chemotherapy for cancer patients. No surgeons available for small or large procedures. Giving birth? It won’t be at a government hospital. The rooms are eerily empty. People are dying. Please do not read that statement flippantly. People are truly dying because they have no access to medical care. Many families are selling their land, land that has been in their family for generations just to receive basic treatment at a private hospital. Treatment for common illnesses like malaria, typhoid, or an infection. In a place where many people are susceptible to illness due to the presence of HIV/Aids, Kenya is on the brink of catastrophe. People are dying, families are in despair.
What a downer blog, right? A little positivity goes a long way, Erin. Where is the hope in all of this? Hang with me. A small glimpse of hope can be found in some of the work we are doing here in Kenya. During the course of last year, Keith and I felt called to initiate a community development program called 2ndMilk, an organization that began in Malawi. It has now expanded to Kenya. This is the mission statement of 2ndMilk:
“God’s vision for our ministry is simple. Giving life to the most vulnerable around the world through formula and proper nutrition provides hope and a future. When a baby loses its mother it shouldn’t keep them from experiencing the fullness of life. 2nd Milk comes alongside these families from birth to 2 years old providing formula, porridge, fruits and vegetables.”
2ndMilk has been instrumental in the lives of three babies so far in Kenya. Babies that lacked a future, babies who were abandoned or their family had no way of caring for and feeding them. Two of the babies were abandoned and taken to one of the local government hospitals, where they were connected with 2ndMilk. When we recently went to visit and complete follow up on these two babies, they were the only two babies in each of the wards in which they had been placed. I should not have been surprised, right? I knew about the strike. I knew that the doctors were not at work. It was still shocking. Empty beds, everywhere. Every ward. Still, there were our two babies, receiving love and treatment because of the generosity of 2ndMilk sponsors. The only reason the babies receive formula, is because of generosity halfway around the world. The hospitals cannot afford to feed babies formula, even if they are abandoned. The nurses who are responsible for those wards still show up to work each day to care for these babies.
You might think to yourself, three babies: is that really making an impact? The two babies currently living at the local hospital, due to abandonment, are more than just patients. They are a gateway to building relationships with healthcare staff. We can encourage and love on the nurses in this season. We are also able to go to the villages and homes of the other baby in the program, Baby Everline, and complete training. Training in preventing disease and illness through hand washing and other hygienic processes. Training on how to care for a baby well. Training that will hopefully prevent the need for medical attention, even if it is only a few for now.
Our prayer is that this influence will spread. As more come to know about the program, the impact can and will grow. Additional education can take place in communities across Kenya. Lives can be saved. It may only be three babies right now in the 2ndMilk program in Kenya. However, these three babies create avenues for education, love, and change. These babies have the potential to grow up and change the face of Kenya. It starts with one. One life changed at a time. For now, we continue on the path that God chose for us. We feed and we love on orphans and those without hope. We pray for the government. We pray for the doctors. We pray for reconciliation on both sides and a peaceful conclusion to the strike.
Want to learn more about 2ndMilk? Check out their website at http://www.2ndmilk.org. Interested in sponsoring a baby in Kenya? Let me know and we can set you up!