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Sarah at work in Kibera
From Stroud to Kibera: an Osteopath's journey
With a full-time career as an osteopath in Stroud, Sarah Spencer Chapman decided to take her skills and experience a little further afield...so she travelled to Kibera in Africa. She writes the following...
Kibera, on the outskirts of Nairobi is reputed to be the second largest slum area in the world. Official figures put the numbers at 1.5-2 million but on the ground, locals estimate three million and growing.
On the way to the clinic
Having spent 10 days there I am inclined to go with the greater figure. In the late 1970's this area was green forest. Now it is a sprawling over crowded deprived slum.
The Constant Gardner was filmed on location in Kibera, I watched it again last night. It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck as the reality of the place leapt out of the screen. Putting aside the pharmaceutical thriller side of the story, the scenes and ambience of Kibera are accurate, evocative and truly what it is like.
I went to Kibera on the 9th August 2008 for 10 days to work as part of a medical team with Care Highway (CH). A relatively small but rapidly expanding NGO the brainchild of Chris Morrison who founded CH 10 years ago. He started with a tin which he half filled with his own money to take aid to Bosnia in a lorry full of donated clothes and food.
Sarah at work
From these small beginnings CH now supports projects of Humanitarian Aid in Bosnia, Serbia, Panama, South America and Africa. All projects have community health and education at heart, each clinic an orphanage or school attached.
35 of us were on this trip – 50 including local translators. 32 were Spanish, Doctors, Dentists, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Pharmacists, Psychologists a teacher an economist and two children aged 13 and 15, an integral part of the team and invaluable as it turned out. Five of the practitioners were students of medicine and dentistry. For most it was the first time in Africa the first with CH.
What stood out for me was the unity and strength of the entire team. In adverse often appalling conditions on a continent alien to most, all were open to cope with anything. We were painfully aware of the need to support each other in order to provide the care needed. Every single individual was valued and respected unquestionably for their contribution.
Stray dogs lay in dumped rubbish
The clinic was makeshift along side the single rail track in the depths of Kibera. CH managed to acquire a building last year which is now The Little School and Clinic. It takes 20 pupils funded by donations – just 15euros a month puts one child through school, clothing, feeding, equipping and attending to their medical needs.
The building boasts one of the few flushing toilets in Kibera and the building has a tap for fresh water. Most of Kibera has no infrastructure of water, sewerage or electricity, no rubbish collection, no free medical care or education. The average life expectancy is 30 years, if children make 15 they are lucky. Suffering chest infections, malaria, TB anyway, many HIV or AIDS the addiction to glue sniffing compounds already compromised systems and kills many children.
Our team treated around 1500 patients in the 7 days we were there and attended to many more. We de-wormed, gave vitamins to every child we could lay our hands on, treated with medication as many with TB, Malaria and other tropical diseases, supplied glasses and sunglasses and educated basic health advice.
A street in Kibera
Many believe Malaria comes from eating sugar cane – we informed them of the mosquito carrying the disease and advised how to minimise risk with basic hygiene measures, sweeping, clearing stagnant water etc. A local initiative ran an HIV/AIDS advice and support clinic that we linked up with to promote awareness.
Each and every one of us was humbled by our experiences, heartened by the spirit and sheer guts of the many we saw. Their humour was infectious, their spontaneous song and dance light in the grim reality of disease strewn, and stinking grimness of the reality of over crowded Kibera. We felt safe in a place we expected the worst, saw community spirit such as we appear at times to have lost in our home towns and countries where materially we have so much.
To support Care Highway or find out more about Sarah's business, Bodymatters Health, click on the following links...
last updated: 03/09/2008 at 15:00