East African radio show Kimasomaso speaks out boldly on health

Radio listeners gather in Nairobi's Kibera slum

Kimasomaso, a health-focused youth magazine radio show meaning 'to speak out boldly' had a regular audience of 4.5 million and was on air on the BBC Swahili service for almost eight years until 2011. Broadcast throughout East Africa, it started out by tackling sexual and reproductive health issues. Later, the focus changed to investigation of health systems in the region.

One radio report for the show produced as a result of BBC Media Action media training revealed that most of the health facilities in informal settlements around Nairobi did not meet the government’s regulatory standards.

From research to reporting

The Africa Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), one of the organisations that benefited from BBC Media Action’s workshops on basic media skills for researchers carried out a study which uncovered the issue.

Kimasomaso reporters investigated the findings – sometimes under cover, posing as real patients – and took testimonies from the public for a special programme which brought together Nairobi’s health stakeholders.  

The show reported how slum residents in the city are left with few or no options when it comes to health care provision, especially in the treatment of childhood illnesses, maternal health and for family planning services.

This goes some way to explain why informal settlements continue to have high disease and death rates.

The assessment was based on an analysis of health facilities in Kibera, Korogocho and Viwandani slums of Nairobi.

Airing the issues

Speaking on the show, the executive director at the Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board, Daniel Yumbya, said he planned to close down the clinics and "haul them to the court of law."

"We have discovered that there are many quacks, former nurses and hospital workers, who have set up dispensaries and medical clinics in the informal settlements with the main aim of making a profit. Some of these clinics lack the necessary facilities for dispensing medical and health services," he said.

The research found that staff in private facilities are not trained in some of the most basic health practices. Only 27% of personnel in private facilities had received training on infection control, compared to 82% of those working in public hospitals.

Substandard clinics can have a severe impact on people's lives. As Kibera resident Shamira explained on the programme:

"I have been having menstrual problems for some time now. I have just seen a 'doctor' who, even without examining me, suggested that my fallopian tubes could be blocked and so I might need surgery. But in the meanwhile he prescribed some painkillers for me. I don't think I will be going back there. I am so scared."

The special programme also looked at what the Kenyan government can do to ensure that everyone can have access to quality healthcare, particularly with the rapidly increasing population of slums.

It also asked if a public-private partnership among health facilities was a viable option.

It was one of a series investigating healthcare institutions and reporting on research evidence to influence policy in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Kimasomaso reporters interviewed health officials including the permanent secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Health and the Tanzanian Minister of Health. The willingness of government officials to participate in panel discussions proved invaluable.

We have discovered that there are many quacks, who have set up dispensaries and medical clinics in the informal settlements with the main aim of making a profit

Daniel Yumbya, executive director at the Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board

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