Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus
The silent killer, otherwise known as maternal and neonatal tetanus, is a life-threatening bacterial infection in newborns and their mothers that is associated with nonsterile delivery and cord-care practices. Although it is vaccine-preventable, when tetanus develops, mortality rates are extremely high. This is especially true when the appropriate medical care is not available, which is often the case in low-income counties. In 1999, there were 57 countries where tetanus posed a considerable risk for women giving birth. Today, that number has dropped significantly, but maternal and neonatal tetanus remains a public health threat in 13 countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.

Kenya has put in great effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus where it once was a common problem. The commitment the country made has drawn global attention and is inspiring other countries to do the same.

Kenya’s Initiative

As of 2018, Kenya has been removed from the list of countries that sees maternal and neonatal tetanus as a public health threat by attaining elimination status. Elimination is only attained when there is a reduction of neonatal tetanus incidences to below one case per 1,000 live births per year. Kenya’s progress towards achieving this important public health milestone began in 2001, proving that this process takes time. A pre-validation assessment took place in Kenya in September 201 by the Ministry of Health with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. A WHO-led validation process took place in 2018 to confirm the elimination of the disease.

Eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus takes a lot of planning, and Kenya has set a great example. In 2002, Kenya introduced a five-dose tetanus toxoid vaccination schedule and in 2003, the country began to implement immunization campaigns in high-risk areas. Kenya also focused on providing free maternity services to increase skilled birth attendants. Over time, they began including tetanus toxoid vaccines into the routine antenatal care packages. Today, Kenya is still working on strengthening health facilities and resources and plans to provide free medical care to children under five years of age.

The involvement of schools is another factor that helped Kenya eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. Aliaphonse’s Katuit primary school is a prime example of the success seen from the campaign. Ann Talam, one of Katuit primary school’s teachers, explained in an interview with UNICEF that the campaign not only reaches members of the student body but also their sisters or relatives who may not attend school. Education ensures that all girls, even those from poverty-filled communities, are immunized.

Kenya’s Impact

Reducing deaths from neonatal tetanus is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to reduce the neonatal mortality rate. As of 2012, Kenya’s immunization coverage for newborns protected against tetanus reached 73 percent — and it continues to rise. WHO estimates a 94 percent reduction in neonatal deaths from 1988, when an estimated 787,000 newborn babies died of tetanus within their first month of life.

As Kenya eliminates maternal and neonatal tetanus, it has inspired the country to combat other diseases as well. They plan to identify the unreached and design an innovative approach to reach these populations with immunizations. On February 22, 2019, WHO representative, Dr. Rudi Eggers, addressed the recent measles outbreak in the country, attributing it to lapses in the routine immunization system since the previous measles and rubella outbreak in 2016.

“There is an urgent need for all stakeholders to come together and work to increase immunization coverage and address inequities,” Eggers said.

The Kenya campaign also aims to vaccinate nearly 14 million children between the ages of nine months and 14 years — nearly 40 percent of the population — for other common viruses.

Since Kenya’s elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus, more than 153 million women around the world have been immunized with two or more doses of vaccines fighting against tetanus. The Eliminate Project, funded by the Kiwanis Children’s Fund, plans to learn from Kenya’s success and use it to inspire other countries to follow their lead. In 2018, The Eliminate Project raised a total of $502.282.72 to save and protect mothers and their babies worldwide.

Along with planning and taking initiative, Kenya recommends planning outreach activities for remote places, promoting delivery in health facilities and strengthening knowledge of health workers on the immunization schedule. Kenya sets an example of how small changes can overcome the silent killer of maternal and neonatal tetanus.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

 

Menstrual Health in East AfricaMenstrual health products are fairly expensive across the globe. Safe measures of menstrual health in East Africa are difficult to come by since many women cannot afford to purchase feminine hygiene products, which often cost approximately half of their daily pay. ZanaAfrica is working to combat this injustice by providing sanitary pads and education regarding menstrual health.

The Problem with Menstrual Health in East Africa

Due to the exorbitant cost of menstrual health products, girls in Africa often have to resort to using potentially unsafe means of coping with menstruation. Some young women use cloths and rags to deal with menstruation, but they also use unconventional approaches such as twigs, mattress stuffing and even mud. These practices founded out of necessity can have detrimental impacts on the health of adolescent girls. Infections and diseases can result from these measures.

Additionally, female students are likely to miss school as a result of menstruation. Due to stigma, lack of hygiene products and harassment, many girls are unable to attend school during menstruation and miss up to 20 percent of school days as a result. Another aspect affecting adolescent girls is the pain and discomfort associated with menstruation.

Sexual and reproductive health education is lacking in Kenya. In an interview on March 25, 2019, Linda Curran, the Senior Communications & Development Consultant at ZanaAfrica, told The Borgen Project, “Their lack of access to SRHR educational resources exacerbated by the negative external pressures they face leaves girls susceptible to inaccurate information and unsafe influences that often hold deep and lasting negative implications for their sense of voice and agency, their confidence and self-determination, their sexual activity and health, and their education.”

In Kenya, 50 percent of girls cannot openly discuss menstruation at home. Additionally, 68 percent of schools do not have a private area for adolescent girls to address their hygiene needs.

An Organization Helping Improve Menstrual Health in East Africa

Based in Washington D.C., ZanaAfrica is a nonprofit organization that provides sanitary pads and menstrual health education to girls in Kenya. Its efforts in Kenya center around the town of Kilifi, along the East African coast. Kilifi was home to 1.2 million residents as of 2012. Since then, its population has grown.

A large portion of the population in Kilifi, 47 percent, is under the age of 15. In addition, compared to the national average, fewer students enter secondary school. Kilifi also has staggering numbers of violations of women’s rights, including high incidences of teen pregnancy, child marriage and sexual predation. In Kenya, 527,000 girls are child brides. The work of ZanaAfrica in Kilifi is pivotal in providing positive changes for the adolescent girls of Kilifi.

Supplementing sanitary pads, ZanaAfrica also has a publication aimed at educating girls about their changing bodies, Nia Teen. This magazine has a rights-based focus and ZanaAfrica distributes it alongside its health education program, Nia Yetu.

ZanaAfrica is truly making a difference in Kilifi with programs educating nearly 4,000 girls regarding their sexual and reproductive health. Also, the organization distributed 35,600 sanitary pads to the girls of the region. With Nia Yetu, ZanaAfrica is extending its reach by working with World Vision and The Kenyan Ministry of Health to provide sexual and reproductive health education in 40 schools that will reach a total of 1,600 girls.

ZanaAfrica accepts donations to further its mission of providing adolescent girls with access to sanitary products and eliminating the taboo surrounding menstruation. While ZanaAfrica only sells its sanitary pads in Kenya, the organization’s brand partner, Cora, is available in the United States. A portion of each purchase helps support the work of ZanaAfrica in Kenya.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Google

Biggest Slum in Kenya
Known to many as the largest urban slum in all of Africa, Kibera is a community of 250,000 people in Nairobi, Kenya without regular access to clean water or electricity. This slum is rife with disease and the abuse of drugs and alcohol is common. In Kibera, the biggest slum in Kenya, artistic expression and the creation of art is not a priority and seldom is it even an option. The Uweza Art Gallery is changing that.

The Uweza Foundation

Jennifer Sapitro, an American entrepreneur, created the Uweza Foundation in 2008. The foundation funded and opened a community center for the people of Kibera. Sapitro gained inspiration from the artwork at the center and opened the Uweza Art Gallery in 2013. Alongside the art gallery, the foundation provides a variety of programs for Kibera’s youth, such as soccer and a female empowerment program. The goal in establishing the creative hub of the Uweza Art Gallery was to give the youth of Kibera an opportunity to develop their talents, a means of expression through art and access to economic opportunity.

The Uweza Art Gallery

The Uweza Art Gallery provides materials and space for Kibera’s young artists to express themselves and create artwork. The youth are also in charge of marketing their art at the gallery, which is located in an old shipping container, a testimony to the scarcity of proper institutions and resources in Kibera.

The way this gallery works is that 60 percent of the money from a sold item goes back to the artist and the other 40 percent goes to the gallery in order to fund more art supplies and pay the rent. If the artist is under 18 years of age, the gallery allocates the money they make from selling their art for their schooling. If they are over 18, the gallery utilizes the money to pay for whatever the artist may need, such as food or water.

Thanks to the Uweza Art Gallery, many artists over the age of 18 are able to fully support themselves through sales. In addition, this creative space hosts free art classes twice a week for Kibera’s youth. Children as young as five years old go to the art gallery to participate in learning the basic skills of art. As they continue attending the classes, the gallery prompts them to paint their own artwork. Once they become more advanced in their art and they have learned the necessary skills, the gallery encourages them to become a part of the gallery and to continue painting in order to sell. They also take trips outside of the slum to visit museums and art galleries.

This program is significant because not only does it give artists in Kibera a means of expression, but also gives them a chance to be economically self-sufficient. This is so important because it can be the ladder that gives them access to climb out of the dark hole that is poverty. The more successful they are selling their art, the better their chances are at overcoming poverty. The art they make can financially contribute to a better lifestyle.

Another way that the Uweza Art Gallery is beneficial to Kibera is that even though it is based in the biggest slum in Kenya, the art is easily accessible to buyers around the world. Artwork created by people living in slums helps to spread global awareness of the problems these individuals encounter. Living in Kibera presents a lot of adversity, but the Uweza Art Gallery is a creative hub that is a beacon of hope for the people of this slum in Kenya.

– Paula Bouza
Photo: Flickr

How early childhood education in Kenya could combat lifelong povertyThere is no one cure for poverty and no way to guarantee that a child will have a successful future, but a good education is a solid start. Poverty is especially bad in Kenya where 42 percent of residents live below the poverty line. A new program in Kenya is testing a model that would prepare young children for school and ultimately prepare them to be successful adults. Early childhood education in Kenya may prove crucial for the success of young Kenyans since such programs have been proven to help children worldwide.

The Tayari Program

In 2014, Kenya introduced a new pilot program for children aged four to six who were enrolled in both public and private education. The program, named “Tayari” after the Kiswahili word for “readiness,” is a “cost-effective, scalable” program with three facets to prepare young children for successful educations. It includes a learning model to help children gain mathematical, reading and even emotional development skills. Teachers receive specific training, guides and materials. In addition to specific teaching styles and a rigid curriculum, children are taught about healthy eating and personal hygiene, specifically the importance of handwashing.

Understanding the actual significance of the program is crucial, which is why Moses Ngware, a senior research scientist at the African Population and Health Research Centre, conducted extensive research on Tayari. His team looked at the impact, cost and scalability of the program. Using randomized controls, they found that students had a three-month advantage over their classmates who were not part of the program. They also found that improving a student’s scores 8 percentage points through Tayari only cost policymakers about $7 per year.

The program addresses important shortcomings within the education system in Kenya, such as “ inadequate provision of age-appropriate and context relevant quality teaching and learning materials.” There is also a shortage of teachers who can guide their students in the classroom. The program was found to be so successful in Kenyan classrooms that it has the potential to change lives throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. While the research is overwhelmingly positive, more data and more time in the program is necessary to know its ultimate effects. The program, like its learners, is still very young.

Education and Poverty Reduction

Improving a child’s chance for a good education is always a good thing, but it could be worth something even more. Could early access to the skills needed to succeed in school lead to a better life in terms of income and wealth? The data shows that early childhood programs and education are already part of strategies to alleviate poverty because of its success rates.

A study in Ypsilanti, Michigan found that at-risk children who were placed in a pilot preschool program achieved greater success than the control group. By 19, they possessed a better economic potential and had better social skills. By 27, they had fewer arrests and higher incomes. The older these children got, the more noticeable their academic and economic achievements were when compared to the control group.

The Carolina Abecedarian Project is one of the oldest programs in this field.  Originally conducted between 1972 and 1985 in North Carolina, the comprehensive early education program was for young children at risk for developmental delays and dropping out of school. Not only did participants do better academically than their control peers, but as adults, they had significantly higher incomes, were more likely to have been “consistently employed” and less likely to engage in criminal behavior. The program was so successful that the organization rolled it out to other states and it is now international.

Early childhood programs are not going to eliminate poverty, but by giving children the social and academic skills needed to better succeed at life, they’re offering a real foundation upon which to build future success. Tayari, the program for early childhood education in Kenya, is cheap, easy to roll out and may really help the poorest of Kenya, maybe even the poorest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Sarah Stanley

Photo: Unsplash

Causes of Human Trafficking in Africa
A theft of human life and an exchange of money for someone’s dignity: this is what makes up the horrific crime of human trafficking.  Human trafficking is an ever-present issue across the globe, and the number of victims the number of victims rises each year. While there are countless contributing factors, the causes of human trafficking in Africa are particularly alarming.

Human trafficking is a prevalent issue in Africa, where law enforcement agencies often lack resources that are readily available in other countries. This results in police officers with less training and funding and makes it difficult for police to properly execute in cross-border intelligence causing a larger amount of human trafficking.

More than 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually and many victims of human trafficking migrants are from Somalia and Eritrea which means that international communication is crucial. One of the causes of human trafficking in Africa can be linked to law enforcement that lacks the training to cooperate with neighboring countries in order to prevent and interrupt this crime.

Human traffickers often seek the most vulnerable populations. In South Africa, an estimated 30,000 children are trafficked each year. Furthermore, in countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ghana, girls as young as eight years old are sold as brides.

Immigrants that are attempting to reach Europe, the Middle East and Italy are often left vulnerable. In 2016, of 11,000 women arriving in Italy in search of a better life, 80 percent were from Nigeria, and many will likely be forced into prostitution and become sex trafficking victims.

However, there is also progress being made to combat this crime. Technology is quickly advancing and in Nigeria, it is being used to stop trafficking. In 2003, a Nigerian app called ‘iReport’ launched, allowing people to report human trafficking across the country. To date, iReport has secured 359 cases.

Kenya has also taken strides in efforts to resist and combat human trafficking. In 2014, Victim Protection Bill was passed, helping to provide support to victims and increasing convictions by building a stronger prosecution case. Since many victims are terrified of their attackers, this bill provides safety for those that want to prosecute or come forward.

While the causes of human trafficking in Africa are complex, there is clear progress being made to address them. Nations are constantly developing new solutions to combat human trafficking and support victims of these crimes.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: Flickr

African Welfare Programs 
Basic welfare programs were introduced in select African states toward the end of the colonial age. Rather than aiding the poorest citizens, the earliest programs were social security schemes designed to assist affluent wage-earners, predominantly white, in their retirement. The majority, who made meagre wages or subsisted through barter exchange, did not qualify for benefits. African welfare programs remain underdeveloped and their qualifying criteria often exclude the neediest citizens. But increasingly, African leaders are seeing welfare programs both as an effective way to reduce poverty and as a tool for leveraging political advantage.

Welfare Programs in Tanzania

In 2013, Tanzania launched the Productive Social Safety Net (PSSN) to assist its poorest citizens through small monthly “cash transfers.” The program has rapidly expanded coverage from 2 percent of the population in its first year to more than 10 percent in 2018. With this program, every recipient receives an unconditional sum that translates to about $5. Beneficiaries can qualify for additional funds by enrolling their children in schools and ensuring they attend regular health check-ups. A “cash-for-work” scheme enables members of a beneficiary’s household to earn around $1 per day for contributing labor to public works projects.

PSSN is geared toward Tanzania’s poorest. Funds are directed toward communities in the lowest-income bracket, but each community elects the households it deems most in need. The governing agency then conducts its own checks to ensure the elected beneficiaries are eligible. A 2016 report led by the World Bank found that 48 percent of PSSN beneficiary households land in the lowest decile for consumer spending. At around $13, average monthly cash transfer values represent about one-fifth of total monthly expenditure for PSSN households.

Welfare Program in Kenya 

Kenya began making together a wide-ranging welfare system during the height of the aids crisis. With support from UNICEF, the Kenyan government piloted a cash transfers program targeting households with orphans and vulnerable children in 2004. It was found that most beneficiaries used their transfers to buy basic necessities like food and school supplies, quelling fears the funds would be squandered. As of 2015, approximately 250,000 Kenyan households received transfers at a flat rate of around $21.

Since 2003, the Kenyan government has funded elementary education for all school-aged children. Reports show that this has not only been highly effective in increasing school enrolment and extending the duration of children’s’ education but has also boosted Kenyan test scores to the top level across the continent. However, there are some bad sides to this program as well. Although tuition is paid for, there are still costs that need to be picked up by parents or guardians, such as mandatory uniforms, which can act as barriers for the poorest families. Another critique launched against Kenya public schools is that they are underrepresented in slums and poorer villages, drawing the charge that the policy could be better aligned to help Kenya’s poorest children.

The Future of African Welfare Programs

Many other African states are moving alongside Kenya and Tanzania in establishing what can be called African welfare programs and systems. In 2013, Senegal launched a cash transfers program that now assists around 20 percent of the nation’s poorest households. The Ghanaian and Zambian governments have both taken recent steps to raise revenue for child benefits. Wealthier nations like South Africa and Botswana are building on their existing welfare systems as well.

African welfare programs are emerging far earlier than those in European, Asian or Latin American nations when considered these programs in terms of Gross National Income (GNI). So far, all indications suggest they are helping lift the poorest from dire poverty and are boosting the economy through buoyed consumer spending. Welfare is not going to eliminate poverty on its own, but it may speed along its decline and improve lives as it does so.

– Jamie Wiggan

Photo: Unsplash

opportunity in African slums
Kenya is known as a contrasting country where there is a large gap between the economic and social classes. About half of the 44 million people who live in the African country live well below the poverty line. This makes necessities like clean water and health care seem like luxuries.

With limited opportunity in African slums, many fall ill from lack of sanitation and clean water, as well as food shortages. Others are unable to attend school and are either pushed into violence or become victims of it.

Kennedy Odede – A Ray of Hope

Kennedy Odede was born in Kibera, Kenya, one of the largest slums in Africa. Here, Odede and many of his friends and neighbors were subjected to violence, severe gender inequality and a constant feeling of hopelessness stemming from a lack of opportunity. Despite his extreme impoverished conditions, Odede remained hopeful for not only a better future for himself and his birthplace of Kibera but for all the slums of Africa.

As he continued his education and eventually migrated to the U.S., Odede became inspired by visionaries of change, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Like these influential men, Odede wanted to better the world for the vulnerable population.

In Kenya in 2004, Odede bought a soccer ball for 20 cents and taught people in his area the sport. Upon bringing people together to play, the Kenyan native was able to create open discussions about the pressing issues within the community of Kibera. Those included issues such as food security and gender-based violence. They started discussing ways to create opportunity in African slums.

Shining Hope for Communities

After meeting his wife, Jessica Posner, Odede’s initiatives branched out into a grassroots organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).  It was founded in 2009. This nonprofit organization devised a plan to integrate programs for girls’ education and community forums to raise awareness about gender-based violence. SHOFCO’s mission statement pays homage to the mindset of Odede’s visionary inspirations. It reads “Empower communities to transform urban poverty to urban promise.”

SHOFCO set up an aerial network of pipes that brought access to clean water. It was an effort to help decrease Kenya’s alarming child mortality rate. SHOFCO has also set up several health clinics, including 6 in Odede’s home neighborhood of Kibera, where over 165,000 patients were served in 2017. Clinical services were desperately needed in Kibera with HIV and other diseases being endemically prominent.

According to SHOFCO’s annual report, in 2017 the organization helped provide free education and health services to nearly 220,000 people across Kenyan slums. Thus, along with health reform in Africa, the organization continues its initiatives to better education and transform the lives of people.

Educational Programs to Create Better Opportunity in African Slums

The Los Angeles based couple’s organization continued to transform urban poverty and create better opportunity in African slums through their educational programs. SHOFCO’s School-2-School program partners with schools across the United States to support efforts and raise awareness for SHOFCO’s free schooling for girls in Kenya.

This partnership has helped 45 percent of Kenyan girls enrolled in the free schooling program achieve A’s in Kenya’s primary education certification exam. Schools enrolled in the program received a B+ average on the same exam. Both Odede and his wife believe that providing young girls with education is important to fighting poverty as it creates female leaders and speaks for the need to fight for women’s rights.

SHOFCO now runs two schools, one in Kibera the other in Mathare. The schools teach 519 girls from pre-kindergarten up to eighth grade. Aside from traditional academic subjects, students focus on leadership skills and learn about Kenya’s government. This was Odede’s idea to make people realize the need to create more opportunities in African slums.

SHOFCO’s annual budget of $7 million is currently made up of donations and grants from both the U.S. and Kenya. Odede and his wife hope this budget will go well beyond $10 million by 2021. That would allow the organization to create more schools and also continue its efforts in addressing Kenya’s health and water security issues. SHOFCO’s model for lifting urban slums like Kibera out of poverty serves as a guide to how industrialized countries can help create opportunity in African slums.

– Haley Newlin
Photo: Flickr

Kenya’s Female Maasai
As is often the case in many poor global communities, Maasailand has a culture of gender inequality. The majority of Kenya’s female Maasai are enslaved by cultural belief systems, denying them from achieving basic human rights. Fortunately, there are advocates working to change this reality and improve women’s rights in Maasailand, Kenya.

Intimate Portrait of Kenya’s Female Maasai

Even in the 21st century, many Maasai women are not educated or only have a partial education. Young women are usually forced into marriage by their fathers into more privileged communities in exchange for cattle and cash. All Maasai girls are subject to a cultural tradition known as the cutting ceremony. It is an annual rite of passage in which girls’ clitorises are cut to signify their transition into womanhood and to mark daughters eligible for marriage. Despite the fact Kenya has outlawed genital cutting to prevent the deaths of even more young Maasai girls, male tribal elders continue to enforce the ritual.

According to the Lööf Foundation, a Swedish nonprofit organization working to improve the lives of international youth, the Kenyan Maasai community lacks adequate health care and Maasai women must travel long distances to receive medical treatment or give birth. The foundation reported that approximately 75 percent of Maasai women give birth on roadsides because the nearest health centers are too far away and that each year one out of every 10 Maasai women and an estimated 20 percent of Maasai infants die during roadside deliveries.

Maasai women can never divorce, except in extreme cases of physical abuse. They are prohibited from remarrying, even if they are widowed in their teens, and merely become the property of one of their husband’s brothers. They will be one of many wives and bear many children, regardless of their health or ability to provide for them.

However, there are various organizations that are working for improving the rights of Kenya’s female Maasai.

Organizations Empowering Kenya’s Female Maasai

  1. The Lööf Foundation is constructing the Kenswed Maternity and Health Center in Ngoni, Kenya. The center will provide both prenatal and antenatal care, as well as general health care to the public and sexual education to youths. The foundation hopes the center will reduce the high maternal and infant mortality rates.
  2. The Maasai Education, Research and Conservation (MERC) Institute works to preserve the Maasai culture and community. It partners with various types of organizations and the Kenyan government to ensure Maasai people’s empowerment and to establish social policies that will create benefits like universal clean water access. MERC co-founded the Maasai Girls Education Fund and also supports schools dedicated to girls’ education.
  3. The Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF) provides scholarships to all Maasai girls. Scholarships are all-inclusive and cover everything from uniforms and books to personal hygiene supplies. MGEF also offers performance monitoring, counseling and provides community education workshops to address the social customs and cultural beliefs inhibiting girls’ education. Workshops are open to anyone with the authority within the community to influence cultural change. MGEF provides business training and seed grants to rural Maasai women. Upon completing their educations, girls have the economic independence and ability to assert their rights as women. The goal is to increase female education enrollment by giving them the necessary tools to economically better their families and educate their children.
  4. Katy Leakey, the proprietor of Fair Trade Winds, started The Leakey Collection, a line of jewelry created by Maasai women to help their families combat the financial hardships resulting from prolonged droughts. The jewelry is made from reeds that would otherwise be burned to plant grass for cattle feed. The reeds are cut, dyed and crafted into bead-like pieces called Zulugrass. Her business model enables Maasai women to be entrepreneurs, not employees. These women take Zulugrass kits back to their communities and employ others to assist them. This newfound empowerment is enriching the lives of Kenya’s female Maasai by making them happy, independent and resilient.

The Story of Nice Leng’ete

As children, Nice Leng’ete and her older sister, Soila Leng’ete, would flee their homes during genital cutting season. Then one year, Soila did not run. Nice kept reminding Soila they were fleeing for a purpose, but despite Nice’s pleas, Soila still surrendered herself to the centuries-old custom. The trauma Soila endured ingrained itself in Nice’s memory. She made her life’s mission to protect other Maasai girls from the same fate by founding a program that travels to villages throughout Maasailand collaborating with elders and girls to form new, symbolic rites of passage in place of cutting. According to a January 2018 New York Times report, Nice Leng’ete had saved 15,000 girls from genital cutting thus far.

Kenya’s female Maasai experience heartbreaking living conditions that are a direct result of cultural beliefs and traditions that consider women as less valuable. Due to these reasons, the Maasai women are forced into marriage and a life of manual labor. However, the power of change shall not be doubted, and for Kenya’s female Maasai, the proof lies in the advocates working to improve their lives forever.

– Julianne Russo

Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in Kenya
Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright is addressing the issue of clean water in Kenya. Currently, 41 percent of Kenyans (19 million people) still lack reliable, safe water sources for drinking water. While on vacation in the Maasai Mara region, Wright witnessed the challenges faced by locals, especially females, when it came to collecting drinking water and decided to start a fundraising campaign with the goal of building two wells in the village he stayed in.

The Global Issue of Clean Water

The availability of clean water has been a major issue across the globe. In July 2010, the United Nations deemed access to clean water and proper sanitation a human right. Yet in 2017, 2.1 billion people still lacked safe drinking water and 4.5 billion did not have sufficient sanitation services. Without safe management of sanitation services and wastewater from cities, businesses and farms, waterways are likely to be polluted. When these water sources are used by community members as drinking water, many health risks arise.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation remain the most common reason for child mortality and are associated with diseases including cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid and polio. By creating the infrastructure for water services, an impoverished community can significantly reduce the number of preventable health issues.

K.J. Wright’s Fundraiser for Wells in Kenya

Clean water infrastructure, however, can be expensive. To build a single well in the village K.J. Wright visited will cost $20,000. In order to adequately cover the expense of two wells, Wright has set a goal of $50,000 for his fundraising campaign. He will personally be donating $300 for every tackle he makes during the football season, which has added up to $1,500 as of November 2018. He has also created an online donation page through Healing Hands International for individuals wishing to support clean water in Kenya.

Women and girls are particularly affected by this problem because water sources are often miles away, and females are usually the ones expected to collect water for the family. Aside from the health impacts of walking great distances daily, the time invested in this chore also prevents many girls from attending school.

Seeing this had a profound effect on Wright. Commenting on his trip to Kenya, Wright said, “I noticed this young girl had dirty brown water. So, I just wanted to help this community. The young ladies have to walk many miles twice a day just to bring back water, and when they do get the water, it’s not even clean. […] I just want to bless this community that blessed me.” By building these two wells, Wright will be helping these young women not only by reducing the time it will take to collect water but also by giving them access to a clean water source.

Changing Lives

Local access to safe drinking water will drastically alter the lives of residents and improve the overall health of the village. Clean water in Kenya is just one example, but celebrity efforts, such as the steps taken by Wright, can have significant positive impacts on impoverished communities.

Fundraising campaigns and advocacy from public figures affect change quickly and can reach diverse audiences that otherwise would not be educated on issues of poverty, clean water, women’s rights and more. Wright plans on returning to Kenya next year and hopefully will continue supporting the world’s poor and inspiring others to take action as well.

– Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts Living conditions In Kenya
Kenya is a culturally rich country located in Eastern Africa along the equator and is one of the most significant places for paleontological discoveries about human’s ancestors. The presence of ethnic diversity within a population of 48.5 million people has amplified its cultural and linguistic wealth but, sadly, it has also been a source of conflict.

Despite the reoccurring security issues, including terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab, Kenya has been achieving some tremendous changes in the political, structural and economic spheres through various reforms. These reforms were a result of a change in the constitution that took place in 2010 and has overall played a key role in the sustained economic growth and social development. The nation continues the deal with some pertinent issues such as poverty, inequality and climate change.

These top 10 facts living conditions in Kenya portray the living conditions in Kenya through the positive changes occurring as well as the challenges the country faces.

Top 10 Facts Living Conditions in Kenya

  1. The 2010 constitutional changes meant a significant part of changing the gears toward development for Kenya as it addressed historically rooted issues such as geographic, demographic and human rights issues that have been an obstacle for the progress of the nation.
  2. As a result of the changes, three years after the constitutional improvements took place, Kenya had a peaceful election for the offices of the National and County Government with demands for fair resource allocation and accountable service delivery.
  3. Kenya has made some commendable achievements including the fulfillment of some of the Millenium Development Goals such as the decrease in child mortality, universal primary school enrollment and the lessened gender gap in education.
  4. Kenya is considered to be one of the fastest growing economies in Africa with a growth rate near 5.8 percent, despite the setbacks caused by the 2008 global economic recession.
  5. Although the overall economy in the country is increasing, the gap between the rich and poor have been growing immensely. Almost 42 percent of the country’s population continues to live below the poverty line.
  6. Due to this great gap between the rich and poor the achievement of Millenium Development Goals, social security, in particular, have been a point of debate as the large part of the society still does not have sufficient access to basic services such as health care, education and clean water.
  7. The Kenya 2030 Vision development programme has the potential to change the lack of access for the larger part of the population through devolved health care as well as free maternal care that could greatly improve health care outcomes.
  8. In December 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced what he called the “Big Four”, four pillars that will be most important in his last term as president and that are: manufacturing, universal health care, affordable housing and food security.
  9. There have been some security issues in recent years with a growing number of attacks due to the Islamist militant Al-Shabaab movement that has set camp in the neighboring country, Somalia. Some of the most infamous ones include the devastating attack in 2013 Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi and the attack on Garissa University in 2015.
  10. In recent years, Kenya has been dealing with a humanitarian issue as a result of the influx of refugees coming from Somalia that have reached over 500,000 people, while refugees immigrating from South Sudan amount to over 30,000 people.

As a country with a tremendous number of young people, skilled labor, a revised constitution and infrastructural resources, Kenya has the potential to be one of the leading nations in the Eastern African. In order to reach such heights, however, it is essential that the country produces and implements sustainable solutions for its security, social and political problems while putting efforts to alleviate poverty.

Bilen Kassie
Photo: Flickr