Overcoming the obstacles to basic healthcare access

This post was written by Chris McKeon, Writer and Production Assistant at Arete Stories.

When The Road Less Travelled project began, the newly-built Morupusi dispensary sat alone on an empty hill. Its metal roof shone but the dust that covers the region had already begun to settle on its walls. Mounds of rubble surrounded it, instead of the people who normally wait outside health centres. Inside, there was nobody. Its walls and rooms were bare. There were neither drugs, nor places to store them nor people to administer them. The dispensary looked abandoned, but it wasn’t – it had never been occupied.

It was built with funds from the local Constituency Development Fund to serve the 4000 Maasai pastoralists who live in the Morupusi Group Ranch, in northern Laikipia, Kenya. They were walking 10 kilometres to the nearest hospital at Doldol, where they would wait for hours to be seen; a return journey that would take up to a day.

Before the clinic opened, women from Morupusi would have to walk to Doldol carrying their children on their backs if they needed medicine.  Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

Before the clinic opened, women from Morupusi would have to walk to Doldol carrying their children on their backs if they needed medicine.
Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

“We wanted a dispensary here because of the distance,” explains Elizabeth Kaparo, a local Community Health Worker and Treasurer of the dispensary committee. “Women have to walk to Doldol carrying their children on their backs if they want medicine. So we applied to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for money.”

Attaining funding to build the clinic was only the first step on a long road to improving access to health services for the Morupusi community. Once it was built, because the Ministry of Health had not been notified about the clinic, there was no budget allocated for staff, and no medical supplies. The building stood empty, and the Maasai continued their long walk to Doldol.

When the Community Development Committee reached out to Anglican Overseas Aid and The Road Less Travelled for help, project staff saw immediate potential in the clinic to become a central hub for community health and education. They formed a three-way partnership with the community and the Ministry of Health.

A community meeting in Morupusi, with the health clinic in the background. Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

A community meeting in Morupusi, with the health clinic in the background.
Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

The different stakeholders all came together to perform different roles, collaborating to achieve a common goal: to bring to the community health services that meet their needs. By partnering with local authorities, the ongoing sustainability of the activities is ensured beyond the life of the project.

“Everyone contributed something, it wasn’t just us providing everything,” says Phillip Walker, Anglican Overseas Aid’s Africa Program Advisor. “The community raised money for maintenance and installing a water tank, guttering and fencing; we provided some furniture; and we helped to persuade the Ministry of Health to allocate some money for staff and drugs.”

Through their partner, the Mothers’ Union, The Road Less Travelled project contributed furniture and trained Community Health Workers who provide a link between their community and the clinic. The Ministry of Health agreed to provide personnel, drugs and other equipment once the dispensary was linked to the official health system.

After receiving training as a Community Health Worker with The Road Less Travelled project, Selina uses her knowledge to promote health and hygiene practices in her community. Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

Selina volunteers as a Community Health Worker, providing an important link between her community and the clinic.
Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

The Morupusi Group Ranch management employed a cleaner and two security guards to take care of the clinic and its supplies. Members of the local community volunteered to work as Community Health Workers, and the necessary training has enabled them to offer primary health care to their community, pass on health messages, and encourage women and children to seek services.

District Public Health Nurse Francesca Kimiri, who registered the dispensary with the Government, says: “We hope that the opening of the dispensary will mean people will stop taking traditional medicines or treating themselves at home for minor illnesses.”

Elizabeth Kaparo, a Community Health Worker and Treasurer of the dispensary committee, looks around the clinic before the opening. Image: Chris McKeon

The recently built health dispensary in Morupusi, prior to its opening.
Image: Chris McKeon

Now the clinic is finally operational, stocked with medical supplies, and the Ministry of Health has posted a nurse there who is working closely with the newly trained Community Health Workers to improve the overall health of the community. The Road Less Travelled project has also employed a Maasai nurse to be based at the clinic, and is hopeful this will attract more people to use the services available.

The Maasai of Morupusi are now spared the long walk over dusty and difficult terrain to Doldol to seek medical services, and for the community the opening of a local dispensary could not come soon enough.

Jackson Kilwa, the Group Ranch Treasurer, says: “This is going to bring a very big change for us. People will not have to walk as far, so they will be able to be treated and then get on with their work.”

With the opening of the clinic, the Maasai of Morupusi are now spared the 10 kilometre walk over dusty and difficult terrain to Doldol to seek health care. Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

With the opening of the clinic, the Maasai of Morupusi are now spared the 10 kilometre walk over dusty and difficult terrain to Doldol to seek health care.
Image: Matthew Willman / Anglican Overseas Aid

One thought on “Overcoming the obstacles to basic healthcare access

  1. Congratulations on a great outcome. Cooperation was obviously the key. Thank you for all the hours of planning to reach agreement.

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